BOSTON - Tom Pinkerton had just sat down after running more than 26 miles on Monday in the Boston Marathon when things turned chaotic. He crossed the finish line in just under three and a half hours, returned to his hotel room and took a minute to relax.
Then came the explosion.
"It sounded like one huge finale of fireworks all at one time happening five feet in front of you," said Pinkerton, a 1979 East Liverpool graduate.
Pinkerton, who now resides in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., estimated he was 100 feet from the site of one of the blasts.
"My initial reaction was that I was right at the finish line and there was so much media and news equipment out there that something with that had to have blown up," he said. "But, I thought that couldn't be that loud. I looked out the window and saw smoke rolling out of the front of the building across the street and everyone I saw had a dazed look on their face."
Pinkerton was staying at The Lenox Hotel and decided his safest option was to remain in his room. He continued to look out his room and said he was lucky to be far enough away as to not see the carnage up close.
"There were people on the ground everywhere," he said. "There was emergency personnel coming from everywhere. I didn't have my glasses so I didn't have to really see some of the ugly injuries, but you could tell they were making tourniquets for people."
Pinkerton said he then attempted to get in touch with family members, including two sisters who still live in East Liverpool, to let them know he wasn't injured. However, his phone would not make or receive any calls.
"The next thing I know, police are going around beating on everyone's doors," he said. "They told everyone to just get out."
Pinkerton said he was told the hotel would be placed on a 24-hour lockdown. Guests were not allowed to return to collect their belongings.
"Luckily, I knew a few people and friends from the area so we were able to get another hotel room," he said.
Before his phone began working again, several hours went by before Pinkerton could reach his family.
Debbie McCoy, a 1981 graduated and brother to Pinkerton, began to get more worried as the minutes ticked by without any word.
"As soon as we heard, I went on Facebook and one of his friends posted that he was OK," McCoy said. "But, it's still a horrible feeling. Until you hear his voice for yourself, you're not sure."
Around 5 p.m., McCoy got the call she had been waiting for.
"It was very chaotic when he called," McCoy said. "You could hear all kinds of people screaming behind him. He just wanted to let his family know he was OK which made me feel better, but it was a little scary hearing all the chaos going on behind him."
For Pinkerton, it was his 16th full marathon and fourth consecutive finish at the Boston Marathon. Pinkerton represented his alma mater by wearing an East Liverpool Potters track jersey sent to him by longtime coach Scott Thornberry. He said that he "proudly wore his Potters' shirt" and that up until the explosions, it was just another normal race day.
"It was a great day and a great race," he said. "The great thing about this race is the crowd support. It's tremendous, but the crowd is so thick and so many people congregate in the area."
As for Pinkerton's future in marathon racing, he said that he wouldn't let these heinous acts stop him from pursuing his passion.
"Well, it definitely gives you a great awareness of how fragile life can be," he said. "I'll continue to run, but I'll have a heightened awareness about me. I'll be much more aware of my surroundings and what's going on."