It was a lovely sight on a lovely Monday afternoon, and Shane Burcar wanted a picture.
The Mesa boys basketball coach stood at the Lenox Hotel near the Boston Marathon finish line at 2:37 p.m., struck by the scene playing out in front of him. Marathon runners of all ages finished the 26.2-mile trek as flags from multiple nations waved in the background. Crowds packed both sides of the street.
He had been here before, but not with the palpable buzz of race day. Burcar took out his camera and started snapping.
“It was a beautiful day,” he said. “Everyone was so excited.”
Thirteen minutes later, that exact spot was rocked by the first of two explosions, an act which killed three people, injured 140 and sent Boylston St. and Boston into chaos.
If for a different chain of events, Burcar could have been affected by the first blast.
He attempted to move closer to the finish line minutes before the explosion, but was turned away because it was a VIP area. So he set out to meet up with his wife, Julie, who had finished running the marathon about half an hour earlier.
As he hugged her on the corner of Stuart and Berkeley Streets — nearly two blocks away from the finish line — he heard two explosions. The Burcars were there with Shane’s mom and Julie’s two sisters, but nobody immediately realized the gravity of the situation.
“My mom said, ‘That didn’t sound good’, but we didn’t think anything of it,” Burcar said.
The group made its way to the ‘T’ subway line, which would take them back to their Marriott hotel in Newton, Mass. A police officer told them the line was closed, and at that point, Burcar started putting together what was happening.
“By that time federal cars are flying by,” Burcar said. “When they started coming in I said, ‘Wait now, they have enough ambulances. Something else is going on.’ I texted a friend in Detroit and he told me.”
The group then traveled to a P.F. Chang’s in Boston, which quickly went into lockdown mode. Burcar wasn’t sure if the violence was over, so they didn’t stay.
“You start getting nervous,” Burcar said. “You’re right in the middle of it.”
It took a few tries, but they hailed a cab and made it to the hotel, where they watched the scene unfold on a television in the lobby. He received numerous phone calls and text messages, as friends and family were relieved to hear everyone was fine.
Burcar sat in Logan International Airport on Tuesday still marveling at the close call.
“I took (the photos) at 2:37, 2:38 p.m. and the bombs went off at 2:50,” he said. “It was 12, 13 minutes. It’s kind of eerie to look back on it. I’m not trying to be dramatic about anything, but we were lucky.”
Those pictures are serving a completely different purpose now. Instead of documentation of Julie’s marathon experience, they’ll be turned over as evidence to the FBI.
“Surreal,” Burcar said. “It was something we’ll never forget.”