About five minutes earlier, Shivaun Pacitto had crossed the finish line in the 117th Boston Marathon. She was milling about with hundreds of other runners who were waiting to receive their medals and space blankets to ward off the spring chill.
Pacitto, a research psychologist with the Consumer Research Team at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, was a bit disappointed with her time of 4 hours 3 minutes, 37 seconds, but she otherwise was enjoying the atmosphere before that instant when everything changed.
“All of a sudden, I heard a loud boom, and it shook through my body,” Pacitto recalled. “And I turned back and I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ And then I heard a second one, and I fell to my knees. A runner picked me up and he said, ‘You have to run. There might be another (bomb) at the finish line.’”
Her husband, Gary Pacitto, chief of the engineering division of the Directorate of Public Works for U.S. Army Garrison Natick, also heard the explosions but couldn’t see them from where he was standing. As others ran in the other direction, Gary jumped a fence and sprinted toward the finish line on Boylston Street.
“All I could think of was Shivaun,” Gary said. “When I got there, there was just mayhem. There (were) people coming in wheelchairs without legs. It was devastating to see how many people were injured and how injured they were.”
Gary finally reached the finish line but couldn’t find his wife.
“I walked to the side of the road, and I prayed that she was OK, because I didn’t know where she was,” Gary said. “And then the phone rang, and it was her.”
Pacitto had borrowed a cell phone from another runner and called her husband. They, their young sons and other family members made it to Boston Common but still didn’t feel safe.
“We got stuck in Boston for hours,” Pacitto said. “We were afraid to take the train home. We didn’t know what was going on with other bombings. My brother came into the city and picked us up and we got home safely.”
The Pacittos said the day after the marathon was worse for them.
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Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the tragedy in Boston.