West Chester councilman who ran Boston Marathon describes 'panic, tension' after bombings

West Chester city councilman John Manion had just finished his fourth Boston Marathon and was relaxing in his hotel room when he heard a loud “boom” from down the street.

“My daughter said, ‘What’s that?’” Manion said. “She’s 9 years old, and I told her it was probably a truck dropping off a dumpster, but it was way too loud for that. Then we immediately heard the next one – and there was no way it was going to be two trucks.”

Manion and eight other runners from a West Chester running group were staying at Marriott Copley Place a few blocks from Boylston Street Monday afternoon after the race, and were blocks from the finish line when two bombs exploded there in quick succession, killing three and wounding dozens more. Manion’s wife had been standing in the area where the second bomb exploded for much of the race before he finished, he said.

Inside the Marriott, Manion and his wife turned on the news, checked Twitter and peered from their hotel windows down Ring Street, where they watched “40 to 60 ambulances line up, all the way up the street.” Then came the SWAT teams and the military personnel in camouflage.

“It got so progressively worse. It was unbelievable,” he said. The Marriott went into lockdown. Hotel personnel told Manion and his group, who had gathered in the hotel lobby, to move back from the windows in case of another blast. “People started to panic a little bit. There was a lot of tension in the air.”

Everyone in Manion’s group was safe and accounted for, and Manion and his family headed home the next day. He’s run the marathon four times now, and says the race is typically like an annual “reaffirmation of my faith in humanity.”

“You go through life, and everything is kind of curmudgeonly,” he said. “But at the marathon, everyone just feels wonderful about themselves.”

Monday, he said, was “the lowest of the low.”

“But while it’s vile, everybody afterwards was checking in on everyone else,” he said. “Strangers were asking – ‘Did you run, are you okay, do you need anything?’ So the best was still there.”