Vicky Hsu is a first-year Master of Public Policy student who ran on the cross country team while completing her undergraduate degree at MIT. The Seattle native ran the Boston Marathon on Monday, finishing about a half-hour before two bombs changed the race forever.
I was with my boyfriend, Matt, and my friend from MIT, Bonnie, and we were in the family meeting area in Copley Square. I had actually wanted to go back and watch the other runners, because people were cheering for me and I wanted to do the same.
After we stood up, we heard both blasts. We were less than three blocks away. We couldn’t see anything because of the buildings but it was super loud and the ground shook. I don’t think anybody thought it was a bomb. Matt thought the media tower might have fallen because it was sort of windy, or like a big dump truck had unloaded.
There was a moment of silence and people were looking at each other and then everyone went back to their conversations. We got up and we convinced ourselves it was no big deal and decided to go to the T and head to Back Bay.
Within a minute we heard all these sirens and people were on their smart phones and nothing was coming up because literally it had happened three minutes ago.
We got to Back Bay and this cop pulls up and we asked him what happened and he said that two bombs went off. We were in disbelief but we were thinking they were small and that no one was hurt. We kept walking towards Bonnie’s place.
I called my sister, who lives in Seattle, and she was feeding me information and giving me the play-by-play. She was telling me ‘You need to get out.’ They did a 15 block radius and we saw the barricades set up right behind us and saw, like, 50 ambulances and the SWAT Team with those big, black cars.
I think, then, that it was really the fear sinking in that there could be more. Like they were set up the day before and maybe they were already there. People were helpful but there was a large amount of fear. My sister told me to stay away from trash cans.
So, we were holing up in a café and they hadn’t heard about it. We waited at this café for two hours trying to figure out what to do. I was all for walking to another suburb because reports were saying there were more bombs.
Matt’s parents drove back into the city. I told him I don’t want them coming back into the city and we were just sitting there and I felt we were way too close to the original site. It was immediate panic.
His parents ended up coming back into the city, though, and Matt’s dad parked the car up towards Boston University because he couldn’t get any closer and he ran all the way to us in the south end. It was really nerve-wracking because he doesn’t believe in technology and he doesn’t have a phone so we were talking to his mom, who was waiting in the car.
I think I was the most scared than I ever have been.
We were then just waiting on a street corner for Matt’s dad and I remember thinking ‘This is so dumb,’ because we were just standing there. We were looking at people and thinking that maybe the bomber was still around here and we made sure to look at people and see who is staying and who is leaving and who might look suspicious. Bonnie and I were flustered and were thinking we would walk away from the city and we were just feeling so insecure of where we were.
Finally, Matt’s dad showed up and we proceeded to walk the three miles to the car and at that point you have so much adrenaline. I definitely didn’t want to stay on that corner – it was just too close.
As we walked, we stopped a few times to see what was going on [on televisions] and you see all those graphic images and think ‘We were just there.’ Now I have a fear that anything could happen.
It all changes so fast. I woke up that morning and thinking of all the scenarios — maybe I’ll get a cramp or maybe I’ll have to walk — but two bombs going off wasn’t one of them.
I’m just grateful we didn’t go back when I had wanted to watch because we would have gone to the finish line since that was the closest.
We didn’t leave Boston until Tuesday night and the original plan was to do touristy things, but nobody wanted to go back into the city.
I want to say that I’m still scared. I haven’t gotten into the stand-up-and-take-this-back attitude yet. I don’t want to say that I definitely won’t go back, I just think it will take a lot more time for me to get to that conclusion.
I will definitely keep running. That part I know for sure. I just need some time.