After two explosions rang out Monday at the Boston Marathon, the hundreds of Chicagoans who trained so hard for such a prestigious event began returning home the next day, calling the tragedy "absolutely terrifying."
"Just mass hysteria," runner Karl Flener said of the bombs that blew up seconds apart near the finish line, leaving three dead and more than 140 wounded. "There were people running in every direction, people crying. It was very quick. I think it was just panic, shock."
Flener, who ran the marathon for the first time, called it surreal and said the attack will affect the way we live and have implications for marathons from this day forward.
"It's changed everything," Flener said.
Carey Pinkowski, executive director for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, flew back from Boston Monday night. He said security has in the past and will be this year the top priority of Chicago's race in October.
"Security is foremost in the planning of what we do in Chicago and what our partners in the World Marathon Majors do," Pinkowski said. "We have a very elaborate security overlay and obviously we will look at that and see what we do and share best practices after the event. It's just a tough day for all of us."
Hundreds of Chicago runners and supporters were caught in the chaos at the Boston Marathon. Those still in Boston described the horrific scene that unfolded at the finish line. For some, including Corey Puckett of Orland Park, the bombs went off minutes after crossing the finish.
"Extremely scary," Puckett said. "You're running the race and have family back home, loved ones and friends, and in a matter of two seconds, you're running your race, you're tired, you're so vulnerable because you're just exhausted, and your life could be taken from you."
Anthony Catalano from Chicago also crossed the finish line a short time before the bombs went off.
"It's very eerie because the fact that I was waving to those people who were standing there in the spectator area and the fact that I just ran right through there, it really questions the whole safety of these races," Catalano said.