Under the Medical Tent at the Boston Marathon
New England Journal of Medicine

Bright sunlight filtered through the awnings of the medical tent pitched in Copley Square, where I joined the many medical professionals caring for people who’d fallen ill from their 26.2-mile run. Some volunteers had been staffing the medical tent for years — one nurse had worked at the Boston Marathon more than 25 times.

Suddenly, there was a loud, sickening blast. My ears were ringing, and then — a long pause. Everyone in the tent stopped and looked up. A dehydrated woman grabbed my wrist. “What was that?” she cried. “Don’t leave.” I didn’t move. John Andersen, a medical coordinator, took the microphone. “Everybody stay with your patients,” he said, “and stay calm.” Then we smelled smoke — a dense stench of sulfur — and heard a second explosion, farther off but no less frightening. Despite the patient’s plea, I walked out the back of the tent and saw a crowd running from a cloud of smoke billowing around the finish line. “There are bombs,” a woman whispered. My hands began to shake.

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