John Stiner, 51, a longtime runner and a massage therapist to elite athletes, had traveled to Boston from his home in Durham, N.C., to support his girlfriend, Sarah, who was running the marathon. She finished the race in three hours and 47 minutes. The first bomb exploded 22 minutes later, as Stiner was making his way to the finish area to meet her. This is how he described the scene in a call to SI senior writer David Epstein.
I thought I heard it, a boom, a low guttural thing. My first indication was when I went outside to fetch Sarah. People were covering their faces, and tears were running down their cheeks, and they said, "Bomb! Someone blew themselves up." That's what someone said. I was like, What? This isn't 9/11. This is a marathon.
Everyone was rushing away from the scene, covering their faces like a horror film. I was trying to get to Sarah. She's like two blocks down from the finish line. If she finished in 3:47 and the bomb went off at 4:09.... And she had to get her stuff off the buses.... Everyone is turning around looking up at the sky, trying to find out where the bomb was. Of course it was on ground level. Then I'm trying to call her, and the phone is totally dead. Some people can talk, and others are saying, "My phone's dead." I sent a text to Sarah's sister. I said something about a bomb, and she sends, "WTF?" And I send a couple more, and they don't go through, and I'm starting to freak out.... The bomb couldn't have been at a better time. They definitely wanted to hurt the most people. Most marathons, the four-hour mark is like the glut of the people. So I'm going down this street, and they're barricading it off. I can't use my phone, and I'm really afraid I'm going to walk right by her ... so I finally got down there, and there's a woman helping Sarah out, a woman going, "Stiner! John Stiner! Stiner!" And I look over, and Sarah's like on the ground with her back up against the marble wall. And I'm thinking, Sarah, what are you doing here? There's a goddam bomb.... She's like, What are you talking about? She's just run 26 miles... I don't think she heard the bomb at all.... She said there were two people she works with who were waiting for her to finish, and she did and then they walked away and the thing blew up four minutes later. She said, "Can you imagine if the people there to watch me finish had been blown up?"
Here's this massive event, the oldest marathon in existence, and ... they didn't blow it up at three hours, they blew it up at four hours. One minute you're going down to grab somebody because she's really exhausted from a marathon, and the next minute, bombs? You're like, I know your legs are beat up, but you really need to get up and get out of here now. [Phone cut off.]