A Derry family was inches from the Boston Marathon bombs minutes before they exploded.
An elated Sean ‘Soupie’ Campbell, originally from Glenowen, completed the marathon less than ten minutes before the two blasts. But elation turned to shock when the explosions ripped through Boylston Street, near the finish line of the famous race - minutes after Sean’s wife Rosie (originally from Prehen) and their child A’Jay (5), walked past the bomb sites. They were accompanied by Sean’s nephew Quinn McGeady (3) and the boy’s mother Jenny (a native of Cork who is married to Rosie’s brother, Derry man Paul McGeady). Former Derry City footballer Sean told the ‘Journal’: “It’s hard to think that my family walked by those bombs no more than four or five minutes before they went off. I ran past the area myself about about ten minutes before the explosions.
“My whole family could have been taken out. There is a whole family that has been essential taken out and our sympathy is with them. The Richard family have lost a son, a daughter is to have her leg amputated and the mother is critically ill - where do they pick up the pieces now? It just doesn’t bear thinking about,” he said. Three people were killed and more than 170 injured.
His upbringing in Derry helped Sean identify what was going on just after the first blast. “My wife was on the other side of the railing and took a photo of me in foil wrap, then we were just about to hug when the first blast happened. It’s a sound I grew up with in Derry in the 1970s and 80s, very distinctive. I said ‘that’s a bomb’ and just as Rosie said ‘are you sure’? the second bomb went off just 100 yards away.”
Mindful of the possibility of further blasts Sean turned his attention to getting his family safely away from the area.
“In a matter of seconds it was mayhem. Cell phones were locked and everything was shut down, roads, subways and train stations. Luckily our car had been parked away from the area and we were out in ten minutes.”
The whole family was “shell shocked” on the way home. “During the ride home in the car no-one was speaking - everyone was shocked. We didn’t even turn on the TV to see what happened until 45 minutes after we got home but my iPad and phone were going crazy with people checking if we were ok.”
A family friend, a sergeant in the Boston Police Department who helped Sean get entry to the prestigious Boston Marathon, called later in the evening. “He wanted to be sure we were ok. He was still at the scene and said it was very traumatic for the people there. He said he could only describe what he was seeing as like something in a warzone. What he told me was horrific, there were body parts, limbs and ribs scattered.”
The scene was in stark contrast to what the Derry man and his family experienced earlier in the day when more than 30,000 people set out on the 26.2 mile challenge to mark a very special holiday occasion in Boston, Patriot’s Day. “It was totally unexpected and a very sad end to a very great day for a lot of people. Patriot’s Day is almost on a par with Independence Day in Boston. It was the perfect sight, thousands of people cheering us on. It was truly unbelievable, the route was lined for 26.2 miles. I started the day on a high and ended the marathon on a high. There was an unbelievable feeling of happiness and such friendliness from all the people who turned out but what happened afterwards was horrific. So many people are trying to understand it but can’t make sense of it.”
Sean has lived in Boston for ten years and works in construction.