South Africa's Ernst van Dyk Following the Boston Bombings


Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa crosses the finish line during the 114th Boston Marathon in 2010. (Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

South Africa's Ernst van Dyk, nine time winner of the wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon, describes the events as he experienced them leading up to and after the bombings near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon.

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"I was wearing number W6 and looking forward to a perfect day of racing. There was a little bit of a head wind which is a little bit harder for us. I wanted to have a good race, and it ended up being a very good race. A few of us chasing a leader. We could almost see him in front of us the whole time and we were just trying to get closer to him. Then he would edge away. Then we would get closer. It was a cat and mouse game the whole race. Unfortunately we never caught him. The two of us that were in that group sprinting for second and third across the line.

We went to the post race press conference and drug testing. At 2 pm I went over to the Mandarin [Hotel] to attend a post race celebration. The ballroom we were in was overlooking Boylston St. and the last 400-500 meters of the race. Everyone was waiting for people to come in when we heard the first blast. Initially I thought is was kind of a cannon signaling a certain cut of time which I couldn't understand why that would be happening.

Then the second blast happened right across the street from where we were. We saw it all. It shook the building. I saw people injured, I saw people down, I saw the panic, people running around. I saw what I'm pretty sure was a guy laying with his lower legs severely injured. It was shocking.

In my sport, I deal with amputees and people who have lost limbs. And from what I'm hearing, there were several kids who lost arms and legs and the 8-year-old boy who was killed, it's just terrible. I just can't imagine who would be sick and want to do this to children.

Next year in coming back to Boston, if the opportunity should arise, I would love to meet them and encourage them. But at the moment you need to let the healing begin and let people recover.

Losing a limb is a very life changing experience and the road to recovery is a long one.

I saw people running away, but I also saw people running towards where this blast occurred. I saw everyday people ripping off their shirts and putting on tourniquet and trying to help injured people. The way that people responded was not what I would have expected. Everyone is just trying to help and trying to secure people and get them to help as quickly as possible. That's one of the thoughts that will stick with me, that people were trying to help even though the conditions were so terrible.

I'm heading towards London tonight, the London Marathon is Sunday. We need to go on and compete in London. If you think back to 9/11 and the New York Marathon a month and a half after 9/11 went ahead. A marathon symbolizes overcoming diversity and rising to the challenge. And I think more than ever people competing in the London Marathon is going to be showing that courage and showing that ability to overcome.

We can go crawling into a hole and start hiding because there are terrorists and people out there trying to rob us of our normal way of living. We need to go on living."