NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk's Eric Opdyke, 41, had just finished the Boston Marathon on Monday and was still within a couple of hundred yards of the finish line when he heard the first explosion.
The Norwalk resident had just completed his first Boston Marathon – sixth marathon overall – in 3 hours and 52 minutes (“I said to myself that I’d be happy with anything under four hours”), and he was thinking of getting checked out in the medical tent because he had gotten sick along the route.
Opdyke recovered, finished the race and was looking for his mother when the first bomb exploded.
“The explosion went off, and the other runners and I looked back and were startled,” said Opdyke. “The last thing on my mind was that it could be a bomb. I thought maybe it was a Boston Marathon tradition to fire off a cannon or muskets. Or I thought maybe it was a transformer that blew.
“Then we started hearing the sirens, and people were suddenly running toward me, and I heard screaming. That’s when I knew something was really wrong,” he said.
The scene reminded him of Sept. 11 when people were seen running from the Twin Towers. He eventually found his mother, and they began walking.
“I usually don’t bring a cellphone with me, but I did in this case and I’m glad I did,” said Opdyke. “We couldn’t make calls, but suddenly I was getting texts from friends from around the world. They knew what was happening before I did.”
Within minutes, Opdyke saw heavily armed police personnel moving through the area. “It looked like a war zone. Blocks and blocks were being closed off.”
The two of them settled in a nearby restaurant and saw members of the bomb squad going from building to building. “Everything was on lockdown. You felt helpless.”
He said he was impressed by the medical and emergency personnel who sprung into action so quickly.
“They saved so many lives because they were stationed in the medical tent right there at the finish.”
Opdyke said he has separate emotions from the day: Feeling deep sadness and sorrow for the victims but also fortunate to have finished the race, which about 5,000 other runners were not able to do.
“Up until the tragedy, being able to run under the Citgo sign meant a lot to me, and turning onto Boylston Street sent chills down my spine,” he said. “But now it’s something different, and that day will be talked about for generations. I’m still reflecting on it. It’s a roller coaster of emotions, and it’s very upsetting.”
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