Feds Seek Suspects, Motive in Boston Bombings

People react to an explosion at the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013.
Associated Press + More

Hospitals reported at least 144 people injured, at least 17 of them critically. At least eight children were being treated at hospitals.

Tim Davey of Richmond, Va., was with his wife, Lisa, and children near a medical tent that had been set up to care for fatigued runners when the injured began arriving. "They just started bringing people in with no limbs," he said.

"Most everybody was conscious," Lisa Davey said. "They were very dazed."

The Boston Marathon is one of the world's oldest and most prestigious races and about 23,000 runners participated. The race honored the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting with a special mile marker in Monday's race.

Boston Athletic Association president Joanne Flaminio previously said there was "special significance" to the fact that the race is 26.2 miles long and 26 people died at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

One of the city's biggest annual events, the race winds up near Copley Square, not far from the landmark Prudential Center and the Boston Public Library. It is held on Patriots Day, which commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution, at Concord and Lexington in 1775.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis asked people to stay indoors or go back to their hotel rooms and avoid crowds as bomb squads methodically checked parcels and bags left along the race route. He said investigators didn't know whether the bombs were hidden in mailboxes or trash cans.

He said authorities had received "no specific intelligence that anything was going to happen" at the race.

The Federal Aviation Administration barred low-flying aircraft within 3.5 miles of the site.

"We still don't know who did this or why," Obama said at the White House, adding, "Make no mistake: We will get to the bottom of this."

With scant official information to guide them, members of Congress said there was little or no doubt it was an act of terrorism.

"We just don't know whether it's foreign or domestic," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

A few miles away from the finish line and around the same time, a fire broke out at the John F. Kennedy Library. The police commissioner said that it may have been caused by an incendiary device but that it was not clear whether it was related to the bombings.

The first explosion occurred on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the finish line, and some people initially thought it was a celebratory cannon blast.

When the second bomb went off, spectators' cheers turned to screams. As sirens blared, emergency workers and National Guardsmen who had been assigned to the race for crowd control began climbing over and tearing down temporary fences to get to the blast site.

The bombings occurred about four hours into the race and two hours after the men's winner crossed the finish line. By that point, more than 17,000 of the athletes had finished the marathon, but thousands more were still running.

The attack may have been timed for maximum carnage: The four-hour mark is typically a crowded time near the finish line because of the slow-but-steady recreational runners completing the race and because of all the friends and relatives clustered around to cheer them on.

Runners in the medical tent for treatment of dehydration or other race-related ills were pushed out to make room for victims of the bombing.

A woman who was a few feet from the second bomb, Brighid Wall, 35, of Duxbury, said that when it exploded, runners and spectators froze, unsure of what to do. Her husband threw their children to the ground, lay on top of them and another man lay on top of them and said, "Don't get up, don't get up."

After a minute or so without another explosion, Wall said, she and her family headed to a Starbucks and out the back door through an alley. Around them, the windows of the bars and restaurants were blown out.

She said she saw six to eight people bleeding profusely, including one man who was kneeling, dazed, with blood trickling down his head. Another person was on the ground covered in blood and not moving.