April 15, 2013
Police cleared out Copley Square following two bomb blasts near the Boston Marathon finish line.
Michael Ivins/USA TODAY Sports

When the bombs went off, track and field agent Tom Ratcliffe was sitting in the lobby of the Fairmont Copley Plaza about a block from the finish line. An hour and 12 minutes earlier, one of Ratcliffe's clients, Shalane Flanagan, had been the top American finisher, placing fourth. Ratcliffe was just sitting down to a meal in the hotel lobby when he heard a boom and saw people running away from the finish line.

"At first I was thinking, that's probably a transformer blowing up, or maybe a gas line," Ratcliffe said. But then Ratcliffe's friend pointed to a woman running past the lobby. "There was this incredible fear on her face," he said.

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Then he saw police running the opposite direction, and within minutes he saw a picture of the explosion on Twitter. "We're just hanging out, just celebrating the day and then all the sudden all hell breaks loose...Within a couple minutes they closed the hotel down. One guy ran out and tried to get back in and it was closed, he couldn't get back in."

Ratcliffe, talking from his phone inside the locked hotel around 6:30 p.m. Monday, said Copley Square was eerily empty. "It was surreal," he said. "Looking at this beautiful place and beautiful day, and all the sudden people panicked and running."

Flanagan, despite a gutsy performance, was disappointed with her run and in tears right after the finish, but, Ratcliffe said, "after this whole aftermath, I think it would be ridiculous to be disappointed. It's relative to everything else."

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