Rabbi Yossi Zaklos was a few blocks away from the Boston Marathon route, “on a nice sunny day,” he said, offering tefillin and asking if passersby were Jewish, when he heard a “huge blast.”
“It was a huge blast to my left. Everybody was shaken,” said the rabbi, referring to the first explosion that took place April 15 near the race’s finish line. “Then there was a fireball—I saw it.”
That was the second explosion.
“You can imagine the pandemonium. Everyone was running, and glass was flying around. I jumped into this bar, there was a lot of chaos, you didn’t know what happened,” said the 31-year-old. “I offered people the phone. I guided people with directions. There was a need for assistance, and I tried to offer some sense of serenity, of calm—to offer support.”
Two people were killed, and as of the early evening, as many as 100 were reported to have been injured.
Zaklos was at the scene until about 6 PM, when he said he was leaving to head over to Massachusetts General Hospital, right near his home and where he heard many of the wounded were being sent, to see if he could help. He said he hadn’t heard of any Jewish injuries or fatalities.
Earlier that day, Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman was as shocked as anyone else after hearing about the explosions. Or maybe even a bit more so.
After all, he had to get to four of his five children—students at the New England Hebrew Academy, Lubavitch Yeshiva, in downtown Boston—who were with classmates and teachers watching part of the annual race. The school, open today even though it was Patriots’ Day—a day off for most children in and around the city—is located about a mile and a half from the runners’ route.
“I live north of the city, in Peabody, and I went flying down there,” he said, adding that there was less traffic than usual because of the holiday, and “it’s normally a crawl the entire way.”
“There was an hour left of school when it happened,” the rabbi, 36, continued. “No one knew what was going on, and they were still reporting finding more bombs.”
“It’s just frightening. I got to school, and everyone was feeling the same. We all remember 9/11. And we can’t believe this was happening here in Boston.”
Cell phone service was cut off for a while in Boston, adding to the confusion.
Schusterman’s children were safe, and he said the school put out a notice that everyone was okay.
“After gathering my kids into my car and heading back, trying to field their thousands of questions, I realized that their world, and mine, won’t ever be the same,” Schusterman wrote later via email. “The terrible reality that evil exists and can touch them even here at home is heartbreaking.”