Des Moines podiatrist Kirk Neustrom spent his 19th year working at Boston Marathon. Most years the worst injuries he sees are runners’ blisters or stress fractures. This year as he stood in the medic tent, he heard two loud booms that he said “sounded like a canon.”
But then, after seeing a huge plume of smoke, the former Navy man knew the noise didn’t come from a canon. “It was a bomb,” Neustrom said.
Neustrom said he texted his wife back in Iowa three simple words, “A bomb. I had a word before it. But I can’t mention that.”
He then ran about 50 yards through the crowd of fleeing spectators to get to the dozens of injured. In restrospect, he knows he left his worried wife back home terrified of what might be happening, since it would be at least a half hour he estimated before he could call her to say he was okay.
Neustrom said he saw a man who lost both legs, another man who had no pulse and a woman who had bone protruding through her bloody leg. While those images kept him awake all night, he said it was also his encounter with a terrified boy who might affect him most. “Probably 8 years old, “he figured, “His hair was singed from the blast. He was crying and they were trying to start an IV. And I just started talking to him, rubbed his back and said, you’re going to be alright.”
Neustrom never made it home to Iowa as planned Monday night. His missed his connection in Chicago because of security delays at the Boston airport. So he spent a sleepless night in a Chicago hotel waiting for his Tuesday morning flight, reflecting on the horrors he saw and wishing he could be with his family back home instead.
Meanwhile, Des Moines attorney Doug Gross initially had no idea what was happening in Boston. He had been working at his law office Monday afternoon when a friend called to tell him about the explosions in Boston. Gross called his wife, Eileen, who along with their son, Eric, had traveled to Boston to see his daughter, Molly, run in the marathon. “There wasn’t lots of commotion,” Gross said, “There weren’t even sirens yet. During the course of the call, pandemonium broke out.”
Gross later learned Molly ran 10 minutes faster than expected, letting her cross the finish line almost exactly 10 minutes before the explosions. His daughter, wife and son were all not injured. Gross said, “We’re glad they’re safe. But at the same time, you’ve got to be saddened in a time of great athletic achievement, that you have the worst possible things happen to the families. It’s terrible.”