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Explosions Rock Finish Line At Boston Marathon


We're going to go now to the details what - the little details that we have about what's been happening at the Boston Marathon. Two explosion rocked - two explosions rocked the finish line or close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon this afternoon. WGBH reporter Anne Mostue was at the scene and we're going to speak with her there. Again, I caution everyone who is either watching the television or watching your Twitter feed at this moment, when something like this occurs, there are often many rumors going out or unconfirmed reports and you have to be careful in sifting through your facts of what you know or what you don't know. We do know there were two explosions that injured some stragglers in the 26.2 mile track. They were rerouted away. There have been some injuries. There's no confirmation yet on anyone injured or anything else at this point. We just know that two blasts occurred at about 2:45 p.m. That's about an hour after the first of the race's nearly 27,000 runners crossed the finish line.

As I said, there is very few confirmed details right now. There are a lot of photos and there's clearly horrific images coming - if you're watching on television on any of the major networks, very graphic images coming from close to the end of the finish line there, two explosions right now. But be careful about the reports that you're getting, especially on a Twitter feed or any kind of social media since there's so little being confirmed.

Many marathon workers are working right now. There are paramedics on the scene. There are some law enforcement on the scene right now. Absolutely no confirmation as to a cause of the explosions or even whether there were more than two or less. You can see the few stragglers - when I say a few stragglers, you can see the images, dozens of runners heading towards the finish line of the Boston Marathon. There was this explosion of to the side somewhere in the crowd, and then there's a great deal of smoke along with some flames coming up from the side of the marathon.

There's very little else that we know, but you can count on NPR to keep on top of the news as the day progresses and we'll give you information. The explosion, again, happened at 2:45. That's about three hours after the winners crossed the line. It occurred on the north side of Boylston Street. That's just before the photo bridge that marks the finish line. If you've ever been in Massachusetts, you can kind of imagine where that occurred. There was one explosion. A few seconds later there was another.

It was actually, to some case, in a fortuitous way, a medical - quite close to where the medical tent was. And as I say, there's a bomb squad on the scene. Yet - we do know that there were injuries. We have no idea how many were. Thousands of runners compete in the Boston Marathon every year. These were the people who were coming in towards the end of it, three hours after the winners of the marathon. We're working right now on getting a reporter. That's why you're hearing me recite the facts that we do know.

Ann Mostue at WGBH in Boston, we're tying to get connected with her. That's a little difficult right now. She was on the scene when this occurred. So we're going to bring you Ann Mostue as soon as we possibly can. In the meantime, let me reiterate what we know. Here is all that we know. There were two explosions at 2:45 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the north side of Boylston Street. There were some people injured. We don't know how many at this point.

That's pretty much the extent to which National Public Radio News has been able to confirm. As I said, if you are looking at any of the images from any of the television networks, the images are quite graphic and in some cases very upsetting. They're trying to clear the streets as much as possible. But if you've ever attended a marathon in Boston, you know that's easier said than done.

Thousands upon thousands of people are in the audience for the Boston Marathon, where it's looking as though almost 30,000 runners competed, representing 96 countries of citizenship, and it's looking as though it was occurring towards the very tail end, the last few dozens of people who were going, getting ready to cross the finish line, close to where the medical tent is, north side of Boylston. And we're still trying to get in touch with Ann Mostue, a reporter in Boston for WGBH. You can hear more of the story, of course. We'll have full details for you later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. In the meantime, we will bring you details as we know them.

And I caution you - I can't caution you enough, that as you look at social media, as you see people's photos come across Twitter, as you are getting in contact with people in Boston, Massachusetts or elsewhere who may be attending, be careful about the information you're taking in, and take everything with a grain of salt because in the immediate aftermath of these kind of events, it is a temptation to immediately respond and put out information that may or may not be accurate.

They are saying that just along the sidelines, near a number of spectators and right close to the medical tent, there were two explosions within a couple seconds of each other. We're joined now by NPR's Tovia Smith, who was not on the scene. But Tovia, help me out here. What exactly - I've said that there were two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Where are you, and what can we confirm at this point?

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: That is true. I just spoke with the Boston Police, and while they're not saying a lot, they are confirming there were two explosions just a few seconds apart just before 3:00. They're not saying anything about the circumstance. But you can see the scenes down there, just about a block or so from the finish line, there are windows that are blasted out. There is shattered glass and blood on the sidewalks. There was smoke in the city. This happened on Boylston Street, not far from the finish line.

I spoke with some folks who work in shops down there, and they say it was just deafening explosions. People panicked and immediately started running away from the scene. There are no official counts on injuries. The hospitals have begun saying that they're seeing people come in. You know, there were (technical difficulties) tents and people in the area to tend to the runners, so in that sense some lives may have been saved.

We don't know. But people were able to get medical attention more quickly, but also this was a very, very densely packed area with throngs of spectators and tourists. And runners alone, there were 23,000 people running the race. So a crazy scene down there right now.

HEADLEE: I want to kind of mention quickly the things that are floating out there as rumors and are not confirmed. Again, these are things that people are talking about and are not confirmed. There are many people who immediately assumed this is a terror attack. Tovia, this is not confirmed.

SMITH: Not confirmed. Nothing about the cause of this, whether it was some kind of unintentional explosion from down in a manhole or something or whether it was a bomb. The police do tell me that the bomb squad is on the scene, as you would expect, along with police and fire and rescue, but they are not talking about the cause. They - a briefing is coming soon but it's taking some time to maneuver down there and also to collect some good information, some hard data about what's going on and numbers of injured and the rest.

HEADLEE: What agency are you speaking with to confirm what's going on? Is it the Boston Police Department?

SMITH: Boston police is who I have been talking to. The hospitals are confirming that people are on their way as well.


And we are speaking with NPR's Tovia Smith, not on the scene at the Boston Marathon. But where are you? You're in Boston, right, Tovia?

SMITH: I'm just over the line. I'm near Heartbreak Hill, actually, and was out on the root of the race earlier today. But no, I'm - it would be very, very difficult to get down near the finish line on any marathon day at this hour.

HEADLEE: And certainly at this point not safe to go anywhere near the Boston Marathon, and I assumed it's advisable that if you are in Boston you stay well away from the scene. Tell me about what kind of things you're seeing or what kind of reports you're seeing about the site itself, what it looks like.

SMITH: The site itself looks like - I mean there is grey smoke on - these are just the images that are coming out of the area now. (Technical difficulties) been wall-to-wall people just an hour ago is now basically emptied out except for authorities. The place - the streets are littered with signs meant to be cheering on runners, water bottles and so on, and seems to be covered in a kind of grey dust. And we saw the windows on storefronts completely shuttered out, sidewalk stained with blood. From reports - eyewitnesses down there anyway, reporting, it seems that there were some very, very injuries.

HEADLEE: I've been watching. They've been replaying on the television networks over and over at least one image - a video image of at least one of the explosions and they don't seem to show the next one. Do we know how far apart they were - a matter of seconds, was it?

SMITH: That's what I'm told by police, just seconds apart. And eyewitnesses that I spoke to in the area said they came right after one another, maybe three to five seconds apart.

HEADLEE: How many people are - I mean we've talked, there's over 23,000 that run in the race, and this is toward the end - so this was kind of spaced out to a certain extent (unintelligible) the spacing between runners. But how many people are spectators at the Boston Marathon?

SMITH: I couldn't begin to estimate, but they are packed in the area. And the elite runners who came in, you know, several hours ago now - one would imagine are still in the area, many of them staying in hotels. I had heard that one hotel was in lockdown. But the number of people in that area, I can't imagine any day where it would be any more crowded than right now.

HEADLEE: Tens of thousands people.

SMITH: Wall-to-wall...

HEADLEE: Yeah. And you can see in this video an explosion goes off. There are people - mostly it's right in the middle of the spectators, but it actually - the blast was so powerful that runners get knocked down by the force of the explosion, and then you see most of the smoke heading back toward the buildings along the side of the road. And as you say, Tovia, it's on - it was on the north side of Boylston Street?

SMITH: On Boylston Street. That's right.

HEADLEE: And how close to the finish line are we talking about?

SMITH: I believe it's just about a block and a half. But I don't have that right in front of me. I believe it's about a block and a half.

HEADLEE: OK. And we're obviously going to bring more details of - from ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I imagine your phone is ringing off the hook as you try to get more details as well. So Tovia Smith, anything - last word to leave with us on what we know about what happened in Boston?

SMITH: Well, except for that there were two explosions, police really are not saying anything but they are promising a briefing very, very soon.

HEADLEE: OK. That's NPR's Tovia Smith, who joined us from Massachusetts. Thank you so much, Tovia.

SMITH: Thank you.

HEADLEE: I want to reiterate what Tovia just said and be absolutely clear that as far as NPR News is concerned, we have confirmed only what you just heard that Tovia say - in that there were two explosions along the route of the Boston Marathon quite close to the finish line. The explosions occurred not on the route itself but in the area where there were thousands of spectators watching. We do know that there were injuries. We cannot confirm how many people have been injured or how severe those injuries are. We will, of course, continue to get details on that.

And as you heard Tovia say, there will be a briefing soon from the Boston Police Department and perhaps some other agencies in Boston. We will bring you details as we know them. Certainly if you are looking at any of these images, a warning to you, they are quite graphic, very upsetting and some violent, violent images coming from the route of the Boston Marathon. Our hearts and prayers are with the people who have been affected by the explosions there. Two explosions on the route of the Boston Marathon near to the finish line.

This is TALK OF THE NATION. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Celeste Headlee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.