One can never truly understand what it must be like to witness an act of terror unless he/she is at the receiving end of it. Victims of such tragedies are forever stricken with the trauma of whatever violent act they happened to stumble upon, but we sometimes forget the people who are witnessing it alongside them. Paramedics at the scene, police officers, bomb squads, kind strangers, photographers, reporters, videographers… the list goes on. These people can offer an invaluable account of the tragedy that occurred.
In an interview with TIME Lightbox, Photographer John Tlumacki describes the scene at the finish line of the Boston Marathon:
I was covering the finish line at the ground level at the marathon. Everything was going on as usual. It was jovial — people were happy, clapping — and getting to a point where it gets a little boring as a photographer. And then we heard this explosion.
It was sort of like, ok, what’s that all about? It wasn’t super loud but all you saw was the smoke. There was this big cloud of smoke and people screaming. The percussion from that explosion threw my cameras up in the air. Right in front of me, one of the runners fell on the ground — he was blown over from the blast. My instinct was…no matter what it is, you’re a photographer first, that’s what you’re doing. I ran towards the explosion, towards the police; they had their guns drawn. It was pandemonium. Nobody knew what was going on.
The first thing I saw were people’s limbs blown off. Massive amounts of blood. It looked like BB holes in the back of some people. And a lot of anger. People were just angry. What’s going on? Why is this happening at the Boston Marathon?
Maybe 15 seconds after the first explosion, while I was still shooting pictures, another explosion went off. And then there was panic. The cops told everybody to get off the street, that there could be another one.
“I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve ever been to. The horror. And the anger,” he says.
We pray for those who perished during the explosion as well as those who have been wounded and are not out of the woods yet.