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A DAY that started with fanfare, high fives and smiles all-round ended in bloodshed and nightmare for a former Fiji scholar and teacher who was at the Boston Marathon.
Nina Ferry, who attended the University of the South Pacific and taught at International Secondary School, said in the aftermath of the twin bombing, the tragedy was still terrifying.
"I have never been so terrified and lost in my life," the former Suva resident told this newspaper.
"Although we did not hear the explosions, my friend on the other side of town heard six blasts and was hearing all sorts of rumours about high casualty rates.
"There were lost people, families screaming out for loved ones and runners — wrapped in their marathon blankets, with tears streaming down their faces."
Ms Ferry explained that she was at Kenmore Square, exactly one mile from the finish where one of the two bombs exploded claiming the life of an eight-year-old boy waiting to welcome his competing father across the line.
"I noticed that I could no longer see the heads of the runners seeking their goal. I noticed there was something wrong; really wrong."
Within five minutes, Ms Ferry had heard the word "explosion" twice and only after stopping a passerby on his phone did she learn of the explosions.
"That's when he said 'bombs have gone off at the finish line'. He told me to call my family because soon all phone lines would be down."
After a quick call to inform her parents that she was okay, Ms Ferry became overwhelmed by the events of the day.
"It was when I got off the phone with my dad that I panicked. I began hyperventilating and had a full-blown panic attack.
"My good friend, who I was with, calmed me down and got me breathing again. My emotions were very surreal. Instinct kicked in. We needed to get to a safe place and if we thought about anything else, we would have been crippled by fear and doubt."
The confusion and pandemonium that would follow the bombings were a far cry from the way Ms Ferry's day had begun.
After spending the morning watching the Boston Red Sox steal a game in the last innings, Ms Ferry and a friend had walked down to watch the marathon runners. The weather was perfect and spring trees and bulbs were blossoming in every direction.
"The runners we saw were dressed in costumes and vibrantly coloured running gear.
"They were slapping our hands and hugging their families because they knew they were close to achieving their personal goal.
"The energy in the crowd and the sun beating down made everyone walk with a light step and a smile.
"It was a heavenly moment." But unfortunately for the people of Boston, it was one that would not last.
As she reflected on the events of the fateful day, Ms Ferry acknowledged that the grieving and healing process for the city would not be easy.
"The restaurants and bars that had the news on and welcomed everyone, even without an empty space in the whole place - were accommodating.
"The city of Boston and its people came together and supported each other with an unprecedented compassion. I am grateful to have felt and witnessed this comfort. But now, is the long hard road.
"A grieving process filled with hurt, regret, anger, guilt, empathy and sadness.
"I can only pray for all of those who lost loved ones, or those athletes who lost their limbs, or those children who won't be able to sleep when they hear the sound of a siren.
"Now, after, I can only pray for the city of Boston and hope that one day, justice will be found."
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