April 19, 2013

Marathon runner witnesses Boston bombing and Texas explosion

The Associated Press

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In this Wednesday, April 17, 2013, photo provided by Joe Berti, a plume of smoke rises from a fertilizer plant fire near Waco, Texas. A massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. killed as many as 15 people and injured more than 160, officials said Thursday morning. (AP Photo/Joe Berti)

Photo by Joe Berti

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This combination photos shows, left, Amy Berti, in a photo taken by her husband, Joe Bertie in Boston, on Sunday, April 14, 2013, and right, an Associated Press file photo that shows Amy Berti, center, in the same coat, running from the first explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2013. A bomb exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon seconds after Amy's husband, Joe Berti, finished the race. Two days later, Joe Berti was in his home state of Texas when he saw a fertilizer plant explode near Waco. (AP Photo)

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But a woman right next to Amy had her leg torn off from the knee down, and lost all the fingers in her left hand. Amy Berti went to get help, and once that woman was being cared for, Amy's frantic search for her husband began.

His cellphone battery died. He wasn't on the bus. He wasn't in the medical tents.

"I had just watched him cross where that bomb was, so I didn't know if he made it through and I couldn't find him," she said. "I started to freak out a little bit."

After about an hour, the couple reunited at their hotel, both of them OK. They left Boston Tuesday morning and returned to Austin, with every hope of getting back to life as normal with their two girls, ages 8 and 11.

Joe Berti went back to work. On Wednesday, he had a daylong meeting in Dallas, followed by a museum tour. He was heading home on Interstate 35 and nearing Waco Wednesday night when he saw black smoke up ahead to his left. As he drove closer, he saw — and felt — his second explosion in two days.

"You've got to be kidding!" he remembers thinking. He described the giant fireball as a massive force that shook his car. He said it looked like pictures of nuclear explosions that he has seen on television.

He didn't know what he had just witnessed — but he pulled over and took a picture.

"My next reaction was to get out of there because something fell on the top of my car — some debris or something fell from the sky," he said.

As black smoke billowed over the highway in front of him, Berti held his breath and drove through it. After a few attempts, he was able to reach his wife — sparing her another round of worry.

"I'm like, 'Honey, what is with your luck? Why are you in all of these places?" Amy Berti said. When a reporter suggested that Joe should stay home for a while, she joked, "We need to keep him moving. Maybe he just needs to stand in an open field."


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