The exhilaration of victory quickly shifted to fear and uncertainty.
That was the scenario as bombs rocked athletes and fans at the iconic Boston Marathon Monday.
“There’s a million people down here and to see the fear in people’s faces…it’s mass pandemonium,” said Coldstream’s Gerry Kovacs, who had spent the entire day near the finish line where the explosives went off, killing three and injuring hundreds of others.
As wife Marnie completed the marathon in three hours and 31 minutes, he went to congratulate her.
“I met up with her and we began to walk back. We could see runners coming in and that’s when the first explosion came on,” said Kovacs.
“I had never heard anything like that. I could taste something in the air and I told Marnie, ‘We need to get somewhere and get safe.’ That’s when the second explosion started. We started running to our hotel.”
David Regehr, also of Coldstream, was also at the finish line, waiting for wife Beth to finish her first Boston Marathon after qualifying six times before.
“I saw a big puff of cloud and thought it was a signal blast. But with the second one, I knew it was an explosion,” he said.
“She couldn’t get to where we were supposed to meet. There was a lot of chasing around for her in medic tents. She walked five miles back to the hotel because she couldn’t get any taxis and the subway was shut down.”
David and Beth — who finished the race in four hours — were soon reunited, but he admits not everyone had such joyful reunions.
“I felt fairly safe but when you are looking around, you are seeing crying people and they are worried about their family,” said David Regehr.
As an RCMP corporal, Gerry Kovacs is used to difficult situations, but the scope of the Boston bombing has been overwhelming.
“You walk through the hotel and there is emergency personnel with machine guns. I’ve never seen a crime scene 15 city blocks long,” he said.
“There are military Humvees parked everywhere.”
Prior to the explosion, Kovacs was visiting with others in the crowd, taking photos of their loved ones and exchanging e-mail addresses.
“There are people I left there and I don’t know what happened to them. That’s very distressing,” he said.
“All of the people who got hurt, they are just tourists from all over the world. They were just cheering people on.”
The tragedy overshadowed Marnie’s appearance at her first Boston Marathon.
“She had a wonderful run but it’s hard for her to celebrate,” said Gerry Kovacs.
But as they left the hotel Tuesday and headed to Logan International Airport to return home, the Kovacs noticed a determination among Bostonians and visitors to not let a senseless act dominate their lives.
“Everyone is taking every step to wish each other, ‘Good morning and be safe,’” he said.