FRAMINGHAM — A moment of silence and words of prayer were held Tuesday at Framingham State University at 2:45 p.m., roughly 24 hours after the attack at the Boston Marathon's finish line.
"Twenty-four hours ago, we were living our lives, going about our daily activities," said FSU President Timothy Flanagan. "Then everything changed very suddenly, very dramatically. We saw the face of evil yesterday."
Marathon runners and university seniors Patrick Morrissey and Rachel Cooper were near the finish line when the two blasts occurred.
"The run was great, it was a beautiful day, and it all turned to tragedy," said Morrissey, who had nearly completed the race when he heard the first explosion and witnessed the second. "The biggest thing I'm going to remember about this is when the second one went off, the noise echoing off the buildings sounded like 50 bombs going off."
"I've never seen anything happen so quickly," said Cooper, who had finished the race and was two blocks away from the blasts outside a Starbucks, where she was meeting with family. "There was confusion. We thought it was celebratory at first. But then, we realized there was no space for a celebratory cannon."
Cooper said she was soon able to walk to safety to her family's home near the Boston Common.
Morrissey described a more chaotic scene. "There were a lot of ambulances," he said. "As soon as the second one went off, there was just a line of police officers coming out and telling us to stop running. I could smell the smoke, but I couldn't see – nor did I want to see – anything else."
It took an hour for Morrissey to find his family, who were even closer to the blast, but survived unscathed.
After a 26-mile run, he found he had to walk 5 miles south to find a taxi. "It took me until 6:30 get out of the city," he said. "That walk was miserable. I was more worried about getting my family out of there than anything. … My cousin was right at the finish line when it happened."
Both Cooper and Morrissey said it was impossible to grasp the magnitude of a tragedy that happened so recently, and both said they have become tired of the constant news coverage the terrorism that they witnessed.
For Cooper, emotions "come in waves of anger and sadness."
"This is a gut-wrenching, heart-wrenching disaster," she said.
"The biggest emotion I've had is almost defiance," Morrissey said. "I want to run again next year. I will run again next year. After something like that, you have to show people. We have to make a statement."
In a prayer, Campus Minister Hai Ok Hwang said the community was lamenting "the innocent victims of terrorism," while at the same time, gave thanks for those who helped those victims.
According to Flanagan, Tuesday's event was held for the FSU community to mourn and support one another. Flanagan said the university community was grateful that those from Framingham State that attended the marathon as participants or spectators were safe.
"As a community, we can overcome even a tragedy of this magnitude," he said.
John Swinconeck can be reached at email@example.com.