Runners, spectators from York County recall Boston Marathon explosions: ‘We thought we were under attack’

Posted April 16, 2013, at 1:01 p.m.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — When the second blast came, Matt Forcier, his mother Giselle Roy and his stepfather Dennis Roy, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday, laid down in the street, not knowing if more bombs would rain down on them.

“We thought we were under attack,” said Forcier, his voice raw with adrenaline and emotion in a telephone interview this morning.

Forcier, a former Journal Tribune intern and a 2005 graduate of Biddeford High School, was in Boston Monday to watch his fiancee’s sister run the 26.2-mile course.

His fiancee, Heather Brown, and a group of her friends had met up with her sister at the 22-mile mark and were running with her to the finish line.

Forcier, now a resident of Newburyport, Mass., and his parents remained at the finish line, happy and smiling and ready to cheer for his future sister-in-law when the first blast erupted across the street.

It came from about 200 feet to the right.

“I thought it was weird … it sounded like a cannon or a firework,” said Forcier.

About 15 seconds later, 150 feet to the left, came another blast and at that point, Forcier and his family knew it wasn’t fireworks.

Chaos ensued.

“We jumped the barricades [that separated the spectators from the runners in the street]. We thought the only safe place was the middle of the street, and so we laid down and covered each other,” said Forcier, recalling those horrific moments.

“We didn’t know what was going on or if another bomb was coming. I thought a bomb would fall on us,” he said.

Then, he said, police told them all to run away from the area — and so they did.

Phones lines were jammed, but Forcier said he was able to contact Brown within about five minutes. Once he heard her voice, he knew she was OK.

Forcier said Brown’s group of runners was the first stopped from proceeding closer to the finish line. Eventually, about 45 minutes later, they all reunited, and then the family walked “for miles,” he said, because they couldn’t get a cab. Eventually, someone they knew picked them up and drove them to Brown’s sister’s home in Brighton. Eventually, the family made their way to Newburyport.

“We were in shock,” said Forcier of the experience. “It was crazy. We’re very lucky.”

Sanford superintendent of schools and marathoner David Theoharides had just finished his run and made his way to meet his wife at the Lenox Hotel, near the finish line, when the blasts came.

“Shortly after I arrived, we heard two loud bangs that shook the hotel,” said Theoharides in an email. “Looking out the window, we could see smoke and people running in all directions. Our hotel was immediately in a lockdown, and then we were told to evacuate the building due to [it] being right on Boylston Street.

“We found our bus, but could not account for all our group, as many had still not finished. It took four hours to locate all the runners as none of them carried cellphones while running. The streets were chaotic with ambulances, and police cars with sirens blaring rushing to the scene. Police were yelling at us to get away from Boylston Street.”

Other Sanford school-related runners were Jamie Anderson of the Sanford Regional Technical Center and a daughter of teacher Steve Walker. All are fine, Theoharides said.

Maine Rep. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, said his sister, Heather, was among the spectators at the marathon.

“My sister is a running enthusiast and lives in Boston. She wouldn’t miss the Boston Marathon for the world,” he said in an email. “It is a yearly tradition deeply rooted for Bostonians and New Englanders alike. Luckily, she decided not to run in the marathon and instead sit this one out.

“She was one of the thousands of spectators along the side of the route. As soon as I heard the news reports, I frantically called my sister to see if she was OK and couldn’t get through because cellphone signals were impacted. I used social media to also reach out and finally got through,” Chenette said.

“It was really scary to know that my sibling could be lost forever from such horrific and deadly acts. It really made me appreciate the people that are most important to us and how short life is and can be in a split second. Hug your loved ones a little harder and say ‘I love you’ more,” Chenette said. “She is OK, but shaken up by the horrific scene. Her sense of security in a city she loves so much will be forever changed. This hit so close to home for me.”

Forcier said he and his family were rooted to the television Monday night and sleep was fitful.

The aftermath of the blasts left images that will linger.

“It was awful,” said Forcier.

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