BOSTON - When the first bomb went off, Tawni Gomes of Ventura, Calif., was standing at the finish line, waiting any second to see that familiar face.
She knew from Boston’s athlete tracking system that her friend Stacey Stapleton, of Camarillo, was close to the end.
Then came the explosion.
“It was 9/11 all over again because I didn’t know what was going on,” said Gomes, her voice breaking with emotion.
Gomes spoke from a hotel near the finish, where she and others remained on lockdown following the blasts that killed at least two people.
“Police said, ‘Get out, get out get out,’ and everybody just ran,” she said. “I don’t even know where I ran, I just followed the crowd.”
Meanwhile, Gomes’ boyfriend Paul Rehder, a doctor from Camarillo, began working on victims at the nearby medical tent where he had been situated.
Rehder had run Boston in 1979, and Gomes had convinced him to volunteer at the race. This was Gomes’ first time at Boston, and she and Rehder had gone to cheer on Stapleton and other members of Vendurance Running Tribe, her Ventura-based run club.
A couple of hours after the race, Gomes had yet to see her boyfriend, but the couple had exchanged texts and knew the other was OK.
“Thank the good Lord I was on the left side. It went off and I screamed,” Gomes said.
News video footage shows the first explosion went off near the right.
Stapleton, minutes from the finish, was diverted off the course along with the other runners and not allowed to finish. But Gomes learned through Stapleton’s husband she was safe.
Gomes said she and others in the hotel weren’t allowed to leave because it was considered part of the crime scene.
“I’m pretty shaken up,” Gomes said. “I’m safe, but it’s pretty scary.”
Veteran marathoner Lisa McClellan, 48, of Simi Valley, was uninjured in the explosions.
The mother of there young children said she had just crossed the finish line and was getting her belongings when she looked back “and there was an explosion and 20 seconds later, a second explosion.”
She was a block away from the first explosion. “It was really, really loud. It shook the ground,” she said. “I knew immediately that something wasn’t right and I instinctually started walking away. People were confused. They weren’t sure what happened.”
“It’s absolutely awful,” she said of the explosions. “It’s frustrating and confusing and absolutely heartbreaking that anyone could do something like this. I just can’t wrap my brain around it.”
Tearing up, she said that had she crossed the finish line a few minutes later, she could have been seriously injured or killed.
McClellan, who writes a blog, http://www.runwiki.org, and her husband, a Navy diver who was in Boston to support her in the marathon, will be home Tuesday.
Camarillo resident Jack Redmond, 67, had just stepped over the finish line when a bomb exploded behind him.
“He felt as if his stepping over the finish line caused the explosion,” said his wife, Sharon Redmond. “It was just utter chaos.”
There were cabs sitting near the end of the finish line and Jack hailed one down.
“Since he had planned on just jumping in a cab that’s what he did, otherwise he might not have been able to get out of there because it was just crazy,” said Sharon Redmond. “The timing was just incredible.”
Sharon Redmond was teaching her fourth-grade class at Sacred Heart School in Ventura and hadn’t heard about the bombs, so she wondered why her husband kept calling her, but every time she picked up, no one was there.
“I kept trying to call him back and no luck,” she said.
Finally, she was able to reach him. “The first thing he said was ‘I’m fine.’”
Sharon found that odd and replied: “OK? And he said: ‘Do you know what’s happened?’ I said, no.”
He filled her in and Sharon grabbed a computer and began calling family members to let them know he wasn’t injured. The school principal realized that she couldn’t concentrate and sent her home.
“I’m shaken,” she said with a TV news station audible in the background. She said she’s praying for the other families.
Glenn Fout, 51, had finished the marathon and walked back to his hotel three blocks away when he and his cousin heard the explosions, seconds apart.
“We didn’t know what they were. Shortly after we heard sirens and what really alerted us were people outside of Boston asking us if we were OK,” said Fout, of Ojai.
“I must have sent 100 texts in an hour.”
He added that the incident has ruined the festive mood he and his fellow runners should be feeling.
“This is supposed to be a time for celebration for runners who had a good day, but you can’t really celebrate now,” Fout said.
Melissa Hernandez, of Oxnard, said the race had gone off without a hitch. Unlike her first time running Boston during a heat wave in 2012, Monday’s weather was cool and slightly breezy, Hernandez said.
She and running partners Adam Rossi, also of Oxnard, and Steve Arce, of Malibu, had just gotten into a cab and were