Eyewitness: 'This Is Type Of Stuff You See In Baghdad, Not Boston'

Apr 15, 2013
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Bruce Mendelsohn witnessed the explosions from a window above, and joins us now from Cambridge, Mass. Earlier, you were in Boston, right near the finish line of the marathon?

BRUCE MENDELSOHN: That's correct. I had just finished watching my younger brother finish the marathon. It was a beautiful day. People were cheering. This was about four hours and 30 minutes on the clock. I was in an office on 667 Boylston St., on the third floor; at a party, at a post-race party, and we were having a nice time.

I was looking out the window. I sat on a couch - and there was a giant explosion. The building shuddered. I saw smoke; I smelled cordite. I'm a veteran, so I know what that stuff smells like, I know what that stuff sounds like. And so I asked politely all the people at the party to go to the back of the building. They all went to the back of the building. Once I saw that they were secure, I ran down the stairs. I was on the scene less than a minute after the explosions.

SIEGEL: And what did you see, at that time?

MENDELSOHN: Well, I ran outside the building; there was glass all over the place. I saw a lot of wounds that came about from a - like, lower torso. So I saw like, compound fractures. I saw - people were running around chaotically. One woman was shouting for her child. She couldn't find her child. I found her child. I gave her the child. I pushed them into like, the vestibule of our office area and then I was on the scene helping to, you know, provide some medical care. I'm not a medic or anything, but I pressure-treated wounds and then after about 15 minutes, I left.

SIEGEL: Mr. Mendelsohn, could you tell what the origin of the blast was, where it was - inside a building, or in a vehicle?

MENDELSOHN: Great question. My impression is that this came from the spectator side. So there - Boylston Street had stands on one side for the VIPs, and spectator side. These explosions came from beneath me; either the Marathon Sports store, or a cafe, or a little candy story, or a credit union. There are four stores in a row. When I came downstairs, the glass from the credit union was shattered and all over the ground, in kind of a fan-shaped pattern.

So I'm not a forensics guy, but my suspicion is they were pipe bombs in a trash can, or someplace on the ground, because the wounds that I saw were lower-extremity wounds.

SIEGEL: We've heard about two deaths confirmed and now upwards - or about a hundred people who are injured. From what you saw, do those numbers square? Or do you think that it's still early in the evening, and we're going to see lots more?

MENDELSOHN: Oh, I couldn't possibly - I saw, myself, I saw 10 to 12 casualties. I didn't see any fatalities. I saw 10 to 12 really gruesome wounds. And then as I was walking away, I saw some other ones. I don't know, but I would say this - that this is the type of stuff you see in Baghdad, not Boston.

SIEGEL: On the other hand, we've had no indication from investigators that there's any foreign link here at all. They haven't described any link at all, actually, to these bombings.

MENDELSOHN: Right. You're absolutely right. I couldn't possibly comment on that, but I can say that these devices were designed and exploded to provide maximum injurious impact.

SIEGEL: By maximum impact, you mean to inflict maximum casualties on...

MENDELSOHN: Yes, yes, yes. And that's why we were concerned because we thought maybe there'd be another explosive device as the people rushed in.

SIEGEL: Which is what often happens in the case of...

MENDELSOHN: Precisely.

SIEGEL: ..terrorism. Bruce Mendelsohn, thank you very much for talking to us today.

MENDELSOHN: OK, thank you.

SIEGEL: Mr. Mendelsohn witnessed the explosions today near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.