First one, then two explosions erupted near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon as runners approached the end of the 26-mile race, with thousands of people cheering them on. The blasts, described as bombs by witnesses, killed three people, and injured dozens more, some critically.
The UCC's Old South Church sits almost on that finish line, performs the blessing service, one of track's most well-known events, and sets the church bells ringing for the winners. As it is Patriot's Day in Boston, the church is closed, but the Rev. Nancy Taylor, senior minister and CEO, and Elias Perez, senior sexton, were in the building at the time of the explosions.
"We have heard three loud explosions," said Taylor. "Many people were injured, but the church has not been damaged. The police have asked us to stay put for now. Praying, praying."
Video of the area showed a steady stream of runners approaching the finish line, when a massive cloud of smoke and debris erupted, blowing people down. As screams could be heard coming from the crowd, the second explosion hit just seconds later. The Associated Press reported that bloody spectators were being carried to medical tents that had been set up to care for tired runners.
The explosions occurred at about 2:45 p.m., more than two hours after the first of the race's nearly 27,000 runners had crossed the finish line, according to CNN.
Authorities in Boston have found other explosive devices that they were working to dismantle, a federal law enforcement source told CNN. The devices were "low flashpoint," and did not appear to have shrapnel inside them, the source said.
It was unclear who may have planted the bombs. There were no credible threats before the race, a state government official said.
The Boston Marathon, established in 1897, is one of the six World Marathon Majors. The event typically attracts an estimated 500,000 spectators and requires certain qualifying times for runners to compete. The course winds throughout downtown Boston, as well as several outlying cities.
We lift up prayers for the Boston Marathon and ask for peace to come to those dealing with the aftermath of this act of violence.