SUNY Plattsburgh Professor Nancy Elwess on Surviving the Boston Bombing
The explosion knocked Nancy Elwess 10 feet into the fence on her right.
Dust clouded the street.
Cheering turned into cries of panic.
As she regained her composure, her left ear was ringing. She had small cuts down her left side from flying glass, some with shards still embedded in her skin.
She looked up to see what was happened. The officers who had lined the fences were now scrambling to help fallen runners …
Another explosion echoed down the street, and she immediately thought, “Oh my God, this is not good.”
Moments earlier, the Plattsburgh biology professor had been only 30 yards away from finishing her 27th Boston Marathon with a grin across her face. She recalled the festive atmosphere that brightened Boylston Street as she jogged to the finish line …
“Then, in one second, it was just panic,” she said.
While Elwess’ injuries were minor, others weren’t as fortunate. The explosions killed three people: an 8-year-old boy, a Chinese student from Boston University and a 29-year-old woman, and injured more than 180. …
(Elwess found that) fences blocked escape on both sides of the street. The only way out was the finish line. Completing the race was the last thing on her mind. She needed to get out of there.
“The clear shot was to just keep going straight through,” she said.
Heading for the line, she looked over at the scene of the first blast. Building windows were blown out; pieces of fence were scattered everywhere and bodies; and blood painted the sidewalk.
When she reached the end, she was surprised to see marathon medical staff already in action.
“They went right out there with wheelchairs and gurneys,” Elwess said. “I think it would’ve been a heck of a lot worse if they weren’t so close.”
She hurried to the Boston Commons, the park where she planned to meet a friend following the race, something they do every year. While she waited, she used a T-shirt and some water to clean her cuts.
Amidst the chaos, her friend eventually made it to the park. Although they were reunited, they faced another dilemma. The city had shut down wireless service for the area to prevent remote detonations, making it impossible to contact others. However, Elwess’ friend was still able to send out text messages. Luckily, Elwess managed to get a message out to her mother in Chicago, letting her know she was OK.
The closest subway station to the park had closed down, so they made their way to another station a mile away and traveled back to their hotel.
The next morning when Elwess returned to Plattsburgh, she went right back to work at 9 a.m. sharp, not even stopping at home first. She needed a distraction, and a desk piled high with papers would provide it.
“I just wanted to get my mind on something else other than sitting at home and thinking about everything again,” she said.
However, Elwess was overwhelmed by the number of messages she received from concerned students and faculty. She admitted it was hard keeping up with the response, but she was touched that even students she had 10 years ago had checked in on her.
Elwess has also been in constant contact with her friend, who she said is having a hard time dealing with the bombings despite watching the race far from the blasts.
Though still shaken up herself, the incident won’t stop her from running the marathon again in the future.
“Will I go back for next year’s marathon? Absolutely,” Elwess said. “We can’t live in fear every day. It keeps us from doing what we love to do.”