NBC News   |  April 15, 2013

Out of town marathon participants share accounts

NBC News' Matt Lauer speaks to eyewitnesses Jackie Brennenman, a pregnant Los Angeles woman who came to see her mother run the Boston Marathon, and runner Rick Henson from South Dakota who finished early but returned to the finish line when the explosions struck.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the way up to boston tonight. outside mass general . matt, good evening.

>> brian , good evening to you. here at mass general they're dealing with 29 of the injured from the bombings. eight of those in critical condition . five in serious condition. and as you know, brian , those patients are in extremely good hands. this is an incredibly well regarded hospital. it's the oldest level i trauma center in the new england region and again caring for those people under the best of conditions inside. i'm joined tonight by three eyewitnesss to this tragedy. i'm happy to say they were not among the injured. i'm joined by matt, jackie and rick. thank you so much for joining us tonight. matt, let me start with you. i know you were making your way to the area around the finish line to meet your wife and some friends. how close did you get before the bombs went off?

>> luckily, i was about 20 yards away. there was a lot of, you know, as you can imagine a lot of traffic on the sidewalk right near the finish line so it really slowed me up. i hate to think of what would have happened if i was there sooner. the first explosion occurred and it was kind of -- like a sound i never heard before. it shook you right to the core. and then trying to figure out what happened. we saw the smoke and then the second explosion occurred and at that point it was pandemonium. everybody running and screaming and saw people bleeding and, you know, it was unlike anything i'd ever seen before.

>> how quick was the response, matt, in terms of emergency personnel? how quickly were those people who were injured cared for?

>> that's something that i actually had the opposite reaction of most people. most people were running. i just for whatever reason i just stayed exactly where i was and i saw all of the policemen, eventually the firefighters and volunteers rushing to the aid of the people that were injured and that's something that is going to stick with me more than, you know, everything else.

>> jackie, i want to mention you're seven months pregnant.

>> yeah.

>> having a tough time anyway. how close were you when the bombs went off?

>> well, luckily, i had been in the -- i was on the corner of boylston and exiter.

>> because of the large crowd?

>> yes. and i was nervous and went in to the chocolate store and there was a second exit in the alleyway and they weren't letting me through and finally -- so a guest from the hotel demanded they let the pregnant woman in to the alleyway so she wouldn't be trampled. we saw my mother-in-law run right by.

>> she was running in the race. i understand she crossed the finish line .

>> she took a picture and it's a minute before the explosion happened. and she crossed. she heard the explosion and she -- she got her medal and we were about 15 feet away. we heard the -- the, you know, big crazy sound and sounded like maybe thunder and maybe we thought there was a building undergoing construction and the building had collapsed. but then everyone started, you know, immediately we saw a siren starting. which let us know that something was really wrong and, you know, and we just were trying to find my mother-in-law. couldn't find her. no cell phone reception.

>> is she okay?

>> she's okay. she feels really guilt she put us through this and obviously a crazy reaction but, you know, don't feel guilty.

>> before i get to rick, matt, i mentioned you were looking for your wife. did you locate her all right?

>> i did. she was a few blocks past where the explosion occurred so, i mean, it is just -- it's crazy to think that she was a few blocks down. my sister-in-law was in between the two explosions when they occurred so, you know, on a day that normally is nothing but positive and joyous, something so awful could occur.

>> rick, you were running in the race.

>> i did.

>> you had finished just about ten minutes before these explosions. you were on your way back to the finish line area the meet up with a friend.

>> i was. i had crossed the line maybe seven or eight minutes before and continued to walk as the runners do, picking up my water bottle and mylar blanket and wanted to go back to find my friend. i got within a block and then i saw an explosion of white smoke and the loudest noise i've ever heard in my life. and even though i was almost a block away, the concussion from that was just stunning. it is disorienting and i think everyone around me, too, we just kind of looked at each other.

>> did i don't know it was a bomb?

>> no. my first thought was maybe a boiler exploded in a building or something. it was louder than a cannon. louder than anything. then about ten seconds later when the second blast occurred it was pretty clear what was happening.

>> a bit like asking you, did you spot a needle in a haystack , any of you heading toward that area, did anything seem suspicious? did anyone seem suspicious?

>> i saw nothing out of the ordinary.

>> i mean, they weren't even letting a pregnant person through to the vip section because they were so careful with security. just to, you know, i just wanted to get through to not get trampled. there was so much police presence and they were really being vigilant. i mean, it was obvious they were paying attention. i don't know.

>> it's a good point. each of you went out of your way to say that the volunteers attached to this race were phenomenal.

>> spectacular.

>> yes.

>> post-explosion.

>> spectacular. one of my lasting impressions from this will be before i turned and started walking away is there's a medical tent about 100 feet beyond the finish line . my impression, lasting impression will be the medical personnel streaming out of the tent toward the blast site and then the volunteers. they continued the hand out water bottles , they continued to hand out blankets and put the medals around my neck.

>> gave my mother-in-law her medal right afterwards.

>> you were all drawn to the iconic event with 500,000 people from across the country and around the world. it would appear that is what drew the perpetrator to this event, too. the size of the crowds. does this change your mind-set in terms of attending future event with a large gathering like this?

>> no. this is the greatest sporting event in the world in my mind. i will be back.

>> no, never. i'm a former new yorker so, you know, i can't be scared away.

>> matt?

>> absolutely not. i mean, bostonians pride themselves on toughness and we'll keep on living our lives the way we do.

>> i'm happy you're all all right. thank you for joining us. brian , as i send it back to you, looking for acts of heroism, in the midst of this tragedy, there are reports that some of the runners after completing the race, 26.2 miles, did make their way to area hospitals and offered to donate blood to help the people who were injured. so there are stories of heroism everywhere. brian , back to you.

>> matt outside mass general , thanks to your guests, eyewitnesss and see more from you tomorrow morning on "today." thanks. all