Ten years ago on April 15, 2013, two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing three and injuring more than 260 people. The bombings sent the city into a state of fear and uncertainty as police launched a chaotic multi-day manhunt for those responsible. Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki shot some of the most dramatic images of the bombings, including the iconic photograph of three Boston Police Department officers and 78-year-old runner Bill Iffrig, who was knocked to the ground by the first blast. The image was featured on the front page of newspapers worldwide and came to represent both the terror of that day and the resilience of the city after the tragedy. Here is a look back at the 2013 Boston Marathon and Tlumacki’s photograph from the perspective of some of the people who experienced it.
Tlumacki, who has been a staff photographer at the Boston Globe since 1981, usually covers the Boston Marathon every year. He was in position near the finish line by 10 am on April 15, 2013, a beautiful day without any security concerns at the time. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis had been up early to take his family to a VIP viewing area, and he had spoken to security and officers involved with bomb detection at 6 am. Bomb dogs walked the route twice before the crowd gathered. Then, he ran into a couple of officers as he was leaving.
The Boston Marathon is an international sporting event that becomes a neighborhood and city event after the elite runners finish. Finish-line coordinator Tom Meagher was looking for two runners when one of his security personnel told him there was a camera man where he shouldn’t be. Marathon volunteer Kelly Heffernan had been working at the finish line since 2010 and watched Tlumacki work. She saw him taking the iconic photograph.
Meanwhile, Deval Patrick, Massachusetts governor from 2007 to 2015, was crowning the winners when his youngest daughter called him to report “a big boom” near the finish line. He left for home, expecting to have some alone time in the garden while his family was away. Bill Iffrig had come from Washington state to run the race at age 78. His son, Mark, had been talking to his mother while the race was going on. Then the two bombs went off within seconds of each other, killing three and injuring hundreds.