At 2:57 p.m., Ledwell's father called from London, unaware of the explosions. He had been tracking her progress online and wanted to congratulate her. "Dad, there was a bomb. There was a bomb, I gotta go," she told him. Then her phone stopped working.

In Toronto, Ledwell's sister had also been tracking the race online and was terrified, knowing Ledwell had been at the finish line about the time of the explosions. At 3:07 p.m., Ledwell's boyfriend, Daniel Ben-Ami, a Hopkins junior, texted from Baltimore: "Hey please tell me you're OK."

Ledwell's father quickly emailed the sister to let her know Ledwell was OK. But Ledwell's phone would not let her respond to the dozens of others who began texting her.

'Just in a daze'

Down the street, Lynne Douglas of Columbia heard the first explosion as she ran down the right side of Boylston — within a block of the yellow band with "FINISH" lettered in blue. She saw the smoke rise, but she and the other runners nearby kept moving.

Police officers lining the road were alert but didn't seem too concerned. Her first reaction was that it was a gas explosion.

Seconds later, directly to her left, another explosion on the patio of the Forum restaurant sent something — she doesn't know what — straight into her leg, cutting her skin. "At that point I knew it was bombs," she says.

A runner just to her left had been badly injured — one of his legs was gashed open and bleeding. In front of the Forum, Douglas could see wounded spectators on the ground.

"Everybody just started running away and screaming and crying," Douglas, 57, said. "I didn't know what direction to go. I stood still for a moment and just tried to figure out what to do and where to go."

Instinct took her to the right, to a metal fence along the course. She climbed over and huddled with a family who told her, "Get down! Get down!"

A man whose clothes were burned and his pants split down each leg approached Douglas on the sidewalk, asking, "Am I OK?"

"And he was just like all of us, just in a daze," she recalls. "I said, 'You've been hit but you look like you're OK,' and he just walked away and so did I, and I can't believe I didn't say, 'We need to get you to the medical tent.' But I wasn't thinking straight."

Eventually Douglas moved off Boylston onto a side street. A woman there asked what had happened, and Douglas explained. Immediately, the woman gave Douglas her coat and her food. She also pulled out her cellphone so Douglas could call her husband, Greg, who was elsewhere in the crowd.

"We couldn't get the call through right away, but we just kept trying," she says. The woman, and a teenaged boy who offered her the shirt off his back, were just two among a crowd of people helping her.

"They were just amazing," she says.

'Redial, voicemail.'

For seven long minutes after the explosions, Dr. Wade Gaasch tried to control his emotions and tamp down the fear that his wife might have been injured in the blasts. But he couldn't get through to her cellphone.

"I kept hitting redial, redial, and would get her voicemail. Redial, voicemail."

Gaasch, an emergency doctor at University of Maryland Medical Center, had passed his cheering wife, Lauren, on Boylston just before finishing the race at 2:23 p.m. He'd meandered through a runners' area stocked with water and food, refueling before grabbing his gear from a bus and heading back toward the finish line.

At 2:50 p.m., he heard the first boom. Then another. Gaasch, who also serves as the Baltimore Fire Department's EMS medical director and was running his 13th Boston Marathon in a row, had a gut feeling something was terribly wrong, and didn't know where his wife was. He thought she might have started walking down Boylston after him. That would have put her right where he saw a plume of smoke rising.