Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon--April 15, 2013

Two explosions shattered the euphoria of the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday, sending authorities out on the course to carry off the injured while the remaining runners were rerouted away from the smoking site of the blasts.

BOSTON MARATHON TRAGEDY: A view from behind the lens

  By Nicole Simmons/regional digital editor



“It sounded like a cannon went off. I saw smoke. I started shooting.”

Ken McGagh, staff photographer for The MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.), witnessed history Monday. He was one of only two news photographers still standing just beyond the finish line, in the middle of Boylston Street, taking photos of runners who had just finished the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon course when two bombs ripped through the crowd yards away.

McGagh has covered the Boston Marathon every year of his career as a news photographer with MetroWest Daily News, often at the finish line. The race runs through many of MetroWest’s towns and is extensively covered by the newsroom.

There are two areas for photographers at the finish – the bridge that extends over the course and the “tight pool,” a small area just beyond the finish line, right on the street, on the course. The tight pool is where McGagh was when the explosions happened.    

McGagh had already filed shots of the winners and had just returned to the finish line about a half an hour before the first explosion. He had come back to capture the common man crossing the finish line and to shoot some feature photos of the spectators.  

“It’s really important to me to show that,” he said in a phone interview the day after the tragedy.  

McGagh and a Boston Globe photographer were the only two photographers left in the tight pool area when the explosions happened, since everyone else had gotten the shots of the winners that they needed. McGagh was scanning the crowd, looking for people who would make a good photo, when he heard the first explosion, which he described as sounding like a “cannon.”  

With a telephoto lens on one shoulder and a zoom wide-angle lens on the other, McGagh immediately started to take photos, one of the first capturing the moment when the smoke was rising and a runner had his hands to his ears.

Then the second explosion happened farther down the street and smoke rose. McGagh started walking toward the chaos. When he thinks about it now, he knows he was putting himself at risk and is lucky to be OK. At the time, he just reacted. 
“When you’re covering something, you feel like you’re safe,” he said. 

What McGagh saw after police ripped down the fences separating the spectators from the street was horrific. But he had a job to do.

“I was aware that I have to do this right. I have to get this done. I have to cover this and do it,” he said. “I certainly felt the responsibility to document.”

He snapped images. Of an older man on the ground, a marathon volunteer helping him up. Of people looking confused, the sidewalk covered in blood. Of a firefighter carrying a young woman, her feet covered in blood. Of a woman sitting on the curb crying. Of an officer carrying an automatic weapon. 

“I wasn’t doing any processing [of the situation] at all. They were just images I was doing,” McGagh said. 

It struck him how quiet it was initially. “It was either quiet or I shut out the noise.” 

Eventually, and after police officers told him to stop, McGagh decided he had what he needed.

 “I guess I decided, enough. And I texted my mom. Then I went to the hotel,” he said.  

McGagh was able to get back into the media hub at The Fairmont Copley Plaza, which had been locked down since the explosions (media who were in there were stuck in there). He went through his photos and emailed [to his newspaper] the ones he thought were appropriate.  

Some will stay in his camera, though. There is one sequence that showed too much carnage. “I just thought it was too much.” 

McGagh pondered whether he should have put his camera down and help those around him.

  “I’m not a trained person,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. My role is a photographer. That’s what I know what to do.” 

The images he saw – both captured by his camera and burned into his mind – are troubling, he said.

  “It’s a heavy burden to carry. I hope it doesn’t become heavier as time goes on.”



The men's and the women's winners before the 2 explosions 



The aftermath as documented by Ken McGagh























 All photos taken by Ken McGagh/Staff Photograhpher MetroWest Daily News


Boston's Channel 5 has aired many of the photos over the last 3 weeks with attribution.  Additionally, newspapers all over the country and in Canada and Europe have picked up Ken's photos from the AP and Reuters wires.


April 20th...Tamerlan Tzarnaev, one of the two suspect bombers, who are brothers, has been killed in a fire fight with police, and the other, Dzhokhar Tzarnaev, was captured and remains under arrest.

May 1st... Katherine Russell, widow of Tamerlan Tzarnaev, is a person of interest.

May 5th...Kadybayev, Tazhaykov and Phillipos, 3 friends of the younger brother, Dzhoklar Tsarnaev, have been detained. 

May 6th...A funeral director in Worcester has prepared the body of Tamerlan Tzarnaev for burial.   

As of May 7th, no city or town in Massachusetts will accept the body for burial. 

May 9th...Someone has accepted the body for burial in an undisclosed location.

"A courageous and compassionate individual came forward to provide the assistance necessary to properly bury the deceased," police said in a statement.

The transfer of the body came a day after Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme made a plea for someone to find a place where the body could be laid to rest.

"There is a need to do the right thing," Gemme said.  "We are not barbarians.  We bury the dead."   

May 10...Rusian Tzarni, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's uncle, says that his nephew has been buried in a Muslim cemetery in Doswell, Virginia, a small community about 15 miles from Richmond, the state capital.

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