On Thursday, April 18, a local high school student called the FBI. Ben Fazio was calling about a picture that was taken and posted on the FBI website. The grainy, pixilated image showed Fazio and his girlfriend, Hannah Tighe, at the Boston Marathon the prior Monday. (It's the photo shown here.)
However, they weren’t alone in the picture.
The couple was walking behind a young man, a fellow spectator maybe, whose dark brown curls sneaked out around a vivid, white baseball cap. To the unknowing eye, it was just a cluster of spectators walking along the marathon’s path.
But to the discerning eye, which today happens to be the entire United States of America, Fazio and Tighe were captured walking behind Dzhokar Tsarneav—otherwise known as one of the two brothers accused of bombing the Boston Marathon.
At the time, Fazio and Tighe thought nothing of it—they can barely remember seeing him. But now they realize that they were walking along Tsarnaev's path just before he allegedly dropped his handmade bomb off on Boyleston Street.
Looking back, Fazio and Tighe, along with EGHS-alum Jake Torrey, acknowledge that experiencing what happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon was one of the most terrifying experiences of their lives.
On Monday morning, Tighe posted on Facebook: “Boston Marathon with Ben!!” The couple had no idea what would unfold in the ensuing hours.
By the time the first bomb went off, Fazio and Tighe were standing 75 feet past the finish line and the first explosion. At the bomb’s detonation, the ground shook violently and smoke abruptly clouded the sky. However, the couple didn’t initially think that a bomb exploded. Their first reaction? A cannon.
“I had been to the Boston Marathon before, so I thought, 'Okay, this is new,'” said Tighe. The couple turned around and saw clouds of smoke creeping towards them. That’s when they heard the second explosion a little over a block down the road. “After the second bomb went off ... people were screaming and the chaos began," she said.
They turned and ran, quickly reaching a side road onto which they escaped. Fazio, a senior at EGHS, described his experience that day as “surreal” and said he was initially “in shock.” Seeing the picture of the two of them trailing one of the suspects on a national news network didn’t make matters any better.
Meanwhile, across the street and 50 feet behind the finish line was Torrey. Torrey, a freshman at Berklee College in Boston, was attending the marathon with some friends. He and a friend were inching their way towards the finish line when a security guard shouted, “You need to be a VIP to go beyond this point!”
“No one was listening to the guard,” Torrey recalled. But he and his friend did pause, to wait for another of their friends to catch up. That’s when the first bomb went off.
Torrey subconsciously jumped back and threw his hands over his ears. The explosion, he said, was “painfully loud.” Everything went completely silent, he said. “Everybody just stopped and looked.”
Torrey's initial thought was that the explosion was celebratory. Then the second bomb exploded down the street; it became clear that these sudden explosions were not celebratory. At this point, he said, everyone “screamed and ran.” He followed along.
Torrey has thought about what might have happened if he hadn't listened to the security guard – shrapnel hitting him, glass cutting him, smoke enveloping him.
As it played out, however, Torrey and his friends escaped unscathed. They still had to contend with lockdown conditions in the days that followed, but in a conversation during that time, Torrey sounded relaxed and said he was “just chilling inside.”
As for Fazio's call to the FBI last Thursday, they told him they would pass on the information to the Providence Police, who would contact him. But he never heard from them—by 10:30 p.m. that same Thursday, Tsarnaev and his older brother would be engaged in a shoot out in Cambridge and by late the next day, he would be in custody, his brother dead.
Author Mikayla Baiocchi, a contributor to East Greenwich Patch, is a junior at East Greenwich High School.