John Mixon of Ogunquit ran in the Boston Marathon for more than 20 years. For the past three, he's participated in a different way.
Mixon is founder of Run for the Fallen Maine, an organization dedicated to keeping the memory of fallen soldiers alive. A Vietnam vet himself, Mixon was in Boston Monday to cheer on five marathoners running in honor of individual soldiers.
Just before 3:00 p.m., he was sitting in bleachers near the finish line, and had just moved down to the first row.
"And just as we got moved down there, within 10 seconds, I heard and saw the blast, and it kinda knocked me off the bottom step of the bleachers," he says. "I'd heard bombs before, and that's exactly what it sounded like. I could smell the explosives, and I saw all the people go down, and I saw the force of the bomb. You know, tt was horrific."
Mixon says he was about 25 yards from that first blast. He and a friend ran across the street to help, but a fence blocked them from the victims. His friend jumped the fence and applied tourniquets to a man who lost both of his lower legs, while Mixon worked with others to pull the fence down. Mixon says he's still coming to the grips with the experience.
"It's unfortunate," he says. "We were there celebrating the lives of men who had fought terrorism and died. And you know, these families had to witness it all over again."
People like Megan Gavin of New Hampshire. She was running in memory of her late husband, Joshua Kirk, orginally from Maine, who died in Afghanistan in 2009.
"I had finished my first half-marathon a week to the day before he was killed," Gavin says. "So it was an important day, you know - he was so proud when he called - so I've just kind of continued it."
Gavin says around mile 23, she started to hear rumblings that something had happened. At mile 25, she was told the race was over. She says there was mass confusion as runners asked for cell phones to check on family members at the finish line. That's where Gavin's two young children, mother, and fiance were.
"You know, and I think it went through my mind: My daughter's been through so much with her father passing, then she's caught in the middle of this nightmare. So that was hard."
It was two hours before Gavin found her family, all of whom were safe. Many others had terrifying experiences trying to locate family members. Dinah Aldrich of Windham was waiting for her 24-year-old daughter at the finish line when she was knocked to her feet by the first explosion, about 100 feet away.
"And the cops were just saying, 'Just get out - just run.' But where are you goning to run? Where's the next one coming from, you know what I mean?" she says. "I grabbed my 12 year old and said, 'Where am I going run to?' But the mother in me said, 'I have another one on the other side of that line. What's going on on the other side of that bomb blast? Where's my daughter?'"
Aldrich says the crowd was so thick that trying to get away was like swimming upstream. Ultimately, she walked to a nearby park, where she reunited with her older daughter.
"I mean, we just ran to each other, you know?" she says. "The whole thing probably took - I don't know - 20 minutes maybe? Twenty-five minutes? It was the longest 25 minutes of my life. People were crying, looking - 'Have you seen...?' 'Can I use your phone?' 'I can't find my sister.' It was just awful."
Aldrich says as the day wore on, there was a palpable sense of anger in Boston. Maine marathon runner Lisa Dixon says the nationwide running community has harnessed a different energy in response to the explosions. Dixon says just glancing at social media sites, she's convinced that the incredible outpouring of support will last until next year.
"I have a feeling there'll be a lot of people fighting to get into that race, to be a part of that, just to show support for the city and for the resiliency of everyone, a part of that to make it better than ever before," Dixon says/
And Dixon is undeterred in her own pursuit of long-distance running. Though she was a specator at this year's Boston race, she's already run marathons in 14 states, with a goal of hitting all 50.
Interview with Dinah Aldrich conducted by Samantha Fields.