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Locals near Boston chaos

'I thought maybe they had fired a cannon in Boston...'

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April 24, 2013 - Casey Hartman was at work in Boston the afternoon of April 15 when she heard, and felt, the first explosion.

The personal stylist and 1996 Brandon High School graduate had no time to even begin to comprehend what had happened before a second explosion rocked the building.

"I thought maybe they had fired a cannon. In Boston, I have seen cannons fired at least 10 times for special occasions," said Hartman, who has a degree in fine arts from Oakland University and moved to Boston in the fall of 2007 to work in the fashion industry. "I thought, 'I'm not going to worry until there is something to worry about.'"

As it turned out, there was plenty to worry about. While a cannon firing might not have been so extraordinary on what was Marathon Monday and Patriots Day, a holiday in the state of Massachusetts, there was no cannon fired. The explosions were bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon by terrorist brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The bombs ultimately killed three people, wounded nearly 200 more, and stopped one of the world's most famous races.

Just a few hours earlier, Hartman, an avid runner herself, had been on Boylston Street during her lunch break, watching elite runners cross the finish line.

"It was crazy, everybody was happy, the marathon is like a party here," she said.

Just a few hours later, the party was over. After hearing the second explosion, Hartman looked out of her work building's window and saw people running away from where the marathon was, some crying, some with blood on their faces. Others appeared normal, unaware that anything was amiss.

Within six minutes of the explosions, Hartman called her mother, Ortonville resident Susan Seffens, to leave a message on her voicemail telling her she was OK in case she saw something on the news about an explosion in Boston. Hartman then saw the news herself as she refreshed CNN and other news websites and blogs.

"People were running and they were evacuating the whole area and it was difficult to understand what was going on," she remembers. "There was a lot of misinformation and you didn't want to overreact and you didn't want to underreact."

By 4 p.m., Hartman, her co-workers and everyone in the building were on lockdown as police searched for other explosive devices in the city. At 7 p.m., she was finally allowed to return to the apartment she shares with her boyfriend, Tobia Ciottone, in the Back Bay area of Boston. She had to walk about 10 blocks in order to get a cab, noting there was no public transportation and police everywhere.

The next day, the subway was open, but with armed guards and police dogs everywhere. She went to work in a city that had a "heavy, heavy national guard presence."

"All of Boston Common was made into a makeshift crime lab... every scrap of paper, they were processing evidence," Hartman said. "It was very scary. Obviously you don't want to panic, but it was a really serious situation."

Public transportation continued to run during the week, until Friday, April 19. Overnight, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been killed following a gunbattle with police and a manhunt had commenced for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Hartman and Ciottone stayed in or near their apartment, about eight miles from Watertown, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was eventually discovered in a trailered boat in the backyard of a residence and taken into custody.

"That day, we made lots of calls and no one rested until we heard from everyone," she said. "Nothing was open, no stores, we couldn't get food. That was one of the strangest feelings."

Since the capture of Tsarnaev, while things are not back to normal in Boston, she said people are continuing on— going back to work and doing what needs to be done.

"There has been a collective sigh of relief," Hartman said. "We don't feel like we're in imminent danger anymore, which is nice."

The feeling of anger remains.

"For anyone in Boston, whether you are a runner or not, the marathon is joyous," she said. "There is no other feeling than excitement and this attack on us is so insulting and makes us so angry— it's a direct attack on all of the city. Boston is the marathon, the marathon is Boston. You messed with our marathon and that is a huge problem."

Hartman hopes to run the Boston Marathon one day, most likely obtaining entry by running for a charity, as she doesn't believe she would make the qualifying times.

"It would be a shame to live in the city with the most famous marathon in the world and never run it," she said.

Hartman said she will likely not run it next year, especially since she expects an "overwhelming outpouring" of people wanting to run the race. However, she will "absolutely" be there cheering them on in the race that has been celebrated for 117 years and in which runners will continue to persevere in a city and a country that will rise to the occasion.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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