More than 1,200 people from the D.C. area ran in the Boston Marathon Monday. Some already have returned, but absent was the elation they’d normally feel after completing such an event.
Michael Clem, of Bethesda, Md., and Chris Laszlo, of Great Falls, Va., completed the marathon not long before the fatal explosions. Both returned to Reagan National Airport about 6:30 p.m., News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reported.
“I missed it by about a half hour,” Clem said. “I think I wrapped it up about 15 ‘til 2. Go to the airport, sit down, look at the TV -- unbelievable, unbelievable.”
“We left the area 25 minutes before the blast actually happened, so it was a very positive event until we heard, but my heart really goes out to the people who were injured and... were killed as well,” Laszlo said. “I'm afraid it’s going to change running events forever, so that’s part of my concern.”
Shock led to worry.
“Everybody on the plane was worried whether the plane would be safe and all that stuff,” Clem said.
John Walls told News4's Mark Segraves the marathon is an annual event for his family. His wife ran it for the 17th time Monday, while his daughter ran it for the first time. Walls was waiting for them to finish when the bombs exploded.
"When the second one went off, I thought, Oh God, we're going to die here," he said.
He said he knew people were dying as he made his way through the carnage.
"You could hear the screams," he said. "You could hear the police and the panic. I knew there was loss of life."
He didn't know immediately whether his wife and daughter were victims and knew that if not, they'd be worried he was a victim.
Doug Watt, of Gaithersburg, had just finished running his sixth Boston Marathon when he heard the first explosion. He saw the second. His wife, who was sitting in the VIP section, was too upset by the incident to discuss it with News4.
Andrea Keane-Myers, of Bethesda, also had just finished when the bombs exploded.
"I think that the rae is fantastic, the people of Boston are fantastic, and I think this is horrible that someone would target such a race," she said. "It's the Super Bowl of running events."
Olney resident Owen Graham, a member of the Montgomery County Road Runners, was among about 20 runners from the county who competed Monday. They had finished and were in a restaurant when they learned of the explosions.
“At that point somebody said, ‘Hey, everybody, update your Facebook, tell everybody you’re OK,’ and at that point everybody said they can’t get a signal.”
Dave Watt, an Army medic from Springfield, Va., said the scene at the finish line felt more like Baghdad than Boston.
"Initially, I thought, 'No, this can't be a bomb.' I was a former Navy officer and I just have seen something like that... and 15 seconds later, when the second bomb went off, we knew this was definitely for real," Watt said.
D.C.-area runner Dan Hassett remembers exactly where he was on the course when he was told to stop.
"We were at mile 25 and a half," he said. "As soon as we stopped we found that there were potentially a couple of bombs that went off. The first thing through our minds was, you know, our families at the finish line waiting for us to finish.... The worst things were going through out head. We thought our family might have died."
Hassett was able to reach his father after about an hour.
Hassett said another runner on the same flight back to D.C. with him had been able to finish the race -- and gave Hassett his medal.
University of Maryland emergency room physician Dr. Wade Gaasch said he finished the marathon about 20 minutes before the explosions and was about three blocks away but was not able to provide aid because police directed everyone away from the area. The former firefighter and emergency medical technician is also the emergency medical services director for the Baltimore fire department.
Gaasch, who completed his 13th Boston Marathon, said he has always wondered when something like this would happen, not if. He said races are relatively uncontrolled settings unlike baseball and football games where packages can be inspected as spectators enter the stadium.
Virginia Supreme Court Justice Bill Mims crossed the finish line about five minutes before two bombs exploded on Monday but told The Associated Press that he was not injured. He said he was about 100 yards away when the first bomb exploded on a sidewalk jammed with spectators near the finish line. A second bomb detonated a few seconds later about a block away.
Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is in China on a trade mission, offered the following statement:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston, and with marathon participants and attendees from around the country and the world, including many from here in Virginia, following the tragic events of this afternoon. There are no words that can properly express our grief and our concern. I have asked members of our Administration to immediately offer any and all assistance that Virginia can provide to Massachusetts in the days ahead. This is a sad day, but America is the strongest and greatest nation the world has ever known. When we face tragedy, we respond with unity, courage and resilience. We’ve seen that already this afternoon, from the very first reactions to this event. I know we will continue to see that kind of response from Boston in the days and weeks ahead. Virginia stands ready to help our friends in Massachusetts in any way possible.”
Stay with NBC Washington and News4 for more on this developing story.