MDI fire chief witnessed Boston Marathon blasts

Posted April 16, 2013, at 3 p.m.
Matt Bartlett
Matt Bartlett

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Bar Harbor Fire Chief Matt Bartlett was near the Boston Marathon finish line with his 16-year-old stepdaughter when the bombs went off Monday. His wife, Lori, a Bar Harbor police and fire dispatcher running in her first Boston Marathon, was a few miles away when the explosions occurred.

Bartlett said Tuesday that he and his stepdaughter Anna Busker were seated in the stands about 150 feet away from the first bomb when it exploded. They saw the flash and felt the concussive blast but weren’t close enough to be hit by any debris from the explosion.

“You could hear the glass raining down,” he said. “I told [Anna] to get down.”

He said the second bomb went off a few seconds later in the opposite direction on Boylston Street. He said that’s when people “really started to take off” from the scene.

Aware that Lori was still a couple miles out on the racecourse, Bartlett and his stepdaughter went down a side street away from the blasts, rather than heading down Boylston Street toward either one.

If the circumstances were different, he added, he may have followed his instincts as an emergency responder to help out. But police were all over the place, he said, and he had his stepdaughter to look after.

“I wasn’t going to leave her,” he said. “I’m glad she didn’t have to see [the carnage]. It felt weird going away [from the bomb blasts].”

Lori Bartlett said Tuesday that she pulled a hamstring and was running at a slow pace in Monday’s race — an injury she said she now is grateful for. She said she had passed the mile 21 marker when she first heard from another runner that there had been an explosion at the finish line.

Her first thought, she said, was about how close Matt and Anna had been to the blasts. Anna, she found out later, had been scared of dying after the bombs went off.

“My mind went to the worst,” Lori said. “It’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had.”

Lori said she tried getting closer to the finish line but, after finding the area blocked off by police, tried calling them instead. She was running with her phone so she could listen to music. Lori got through to Anna twice before cell service was disconnected and met up with them safely less than an hour after the incident. They went straight back to their hotel and decided to head back to Bar Harbor right away, she added.

Lori, running in the marathon to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, said her first thought after the incident was that she would not run in any future Boston marathons. But she realized later that she was running for a good, charitable reason and wants to be able to do so again.

Next time, she said, she’ll make sure Matt and Anna will be watching somewhere else along the race course.

“I won’t let them be at the finish line,” she said.

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