April 17, 2013

'It was all innocent people, just defenseless'

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON – John Mixon of Ogunquit was standing on the bleachers at the Boston Marathon finish line, looking for one of the Mainers running on behalf of a fallen soldier, when an explosion ripped open the storefront across the street.

click image to enlarge

A medical responder and Carlos Arredondo, in cowboy hat, run an injured man past the finish line following an explosion at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Two explosions shattered the euphoria of the race, sending authorities out on the course to carry off the injured while stragglers were rerouted away from the smoking site of the blasts.

The Associated Press

FOR MORE INFORMATION, visit our special section covering the Boston bombings.

"It knocked me right out of the bleachers," Mixon said, his voice still quivering two and a half hours later. "It was definitely a bomb. You could smell the explosives."

Mixon and Carlos Arredondo, the father of one of those fallen soldiers, charged across the street to help the spectators who had lined up behind a snow fence four and five deep to watch the finish.

What they encountered was worse than anything Mixon, a Vietnam veteran, had seen overseas.

"When we got over there, it was just a pile of bodies – people with legs missing," Mixon said Monday evening. "It was absolutely like a war scene. This was worse, because it was all innocent people, just defenseless. They were just lying in a pile, gunpowder all over them, burnt."

Scores of Mainers, maybe more, were within a couple of blocks of the explosions that shattered the celebration of endurance and achievement. Some were among the more than 200 Maine runners scheduled to participate in the Patriots Day tradition. Others were volunteers or spectators.

There were five runners for Race for the Fallen Maine, five marathoners running on behalf of Maine soldiers who had died overseas, including Alexander Arredondo of Bangor.

One was nearing the finish line, and that had brought Mixon to the front of the bleachers. Arredondo was handing one of his handful of small flags to a National Guardsman who had just completed the race.

The blast was followed by moments of confused silence, then screams.

The two friends crossed the street and Mixon started ripping away the snow fence and scaffolding to get at the victims. Arredondo vaulted it and tried using his clothes and towels to stanch the victims' bleeding but they were hurt too badly.

Both men helped get one of the spectators, missing both legs, into a wheelchair that race medical staff had brought.

"I kept talking to him. I kept saying, 'Stay with me, stay with me,' " Arredondo said.

Lisa Lavonte and Angela Coulombe of Saco were volunteering near the finish line when the blast hit.

"Up in the sky all of (a) sudden there was a big plume of dark smoke," Lavonte said. "I said to my friend, ...'Oh, my God. I think that was a bomb.' This is at about the four-hour mark. All the elite runners had already gone through."

Within a minute, the second blast had hit.

"People weren't quite sure what was going on. Then a siren went off. ... At that stage, almost a kind of panic set in," Coulombe said.

Then the friends saw rescue workers rushing forward. They returned with a man in a wheelchair. He had lost one leg from the knee down, and on the other side, his foot was severed at the ankle.

"He seemed like he was in total shock, holding his head like he was thinking," Lavonte said. "He was all bloody. His eyes were open and he was staring into the palm of his hand."

He was rushed into the medical tent for treatment.

Organizers initially told the volunteers to disperse, but then called them back to clear pallets of water and Gatorade from the street, Lavonte said. The road had been shut down for the race, but had to be cleared so emergency vehicles could get through, she said.

(Continued on page 2)

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