‘And in an instant… it became something horrifying’

A Red Hook runner’s account of the Boston Marathon bombing

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Red Hook resident Mark Mulpeter had already finished running the Boston Marathon by the time the bombs went off on April 15.

But he was only a block away and he recalled the shock and horror as something almost surreal.

Mulpeter was reluctant to talk to The Observer about the day, saying his experience paled in comparison to those deeply wounded, both physically and spiritually.

The Marathon site was shaken at 3pm on race day by twin explosions from backpacks placed amongst fans at the finish line on Boylston Street. The blasts killed three people and injured more than 170 others. A massive manhunt, in which one police officer was killed and another severely injured, ended in the death of one suspect and the late-night capture of his 19-year-old brother.

Mulpeter said he had spent the winter training for the marathon, his first, with a group of friends. By the time the explosions had gone off, he had finished.

While he was running, Mulpeter told The Observer, “my wife, Brigitte, and a friend of mine were in the stands across from Boylston Street cheering at the finish line.”

Mulpeter, his wife, and his friends, left the stands 45 minutes before the incident. They were in the Marriott Copley Place Hotel, less than a block away, when the first bomb detonated.

“We heard the first explosion. It shook the windows of the hotel, it was really loud. And right away you knew that it was an explosion—my first thought was that it wasn’t a bomb, maybe a gas explosion,” Mulpeter recalled.

He witnessed the second explosion through a window, and as he watched the chaotic aftermath, he learned through word of mouth that the explosion was probably a terrorist attack.

“We didn’t feel unsafe where we were [in the hotel],” said Mulpeter, “What we really felt was surreal. There was shock and immediate sadness for the victims—they were doing the same thing my wife was, on Boylston Street, cheering on runners and celebrating. And in an instant… it became something horrifying.”

The entire area went immediately went into lockdown, according to Mulpeter. Traffic was halted in and around Copley Square and no one was allowed in or out of the hotel. “We couldn’t even get our car out of the garage,” he said.

The immediate feeling after the explosions, said Mulpeter, was a widespread sense of somberness and shock—shock not only because of the severity of the attack, but because of the site. “There was a sense of shock that such a great event, the Marathon, and Patriots Day had been attacked as it was,” said Mulpeter, “Ask anyone who’s from Boston or lives near Boston, it’s a great celebration, an uplifting day.”

Mulpeter had originally planned that running the Boston Marathon would be a one-time thing. That’s because the commitment to marathon preparation takes months of strictly regimented training, he said.

But the bombing changed his mind.

“Originally, I wasn’t going to run next year. But now, at this point, I feel like I really want to, to prove a point—to tell terrorists that we won’t be terrorized,” he said. “I like the strength that Boston has showed, that they’ve vowed to come back stronger than ever—the whole ‘Boston Strong’ movement.”

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