Standing in a crowd of people, with sirens roaring around them, Debbie Pomazal of Mundelein frantically searched for her daughter, Ashley, who had just finished running the Boston Marathon.
She knew Ashley was in the medic tent, receiving IV fluids, something that wasn't unusual for her after long runs. Meanwhile, Debbie waited on the sidelines, standing on a curb peering over the crowds, when the bombs exploded 60 feet from the medic tent.
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After the blast, Debbie saw a huge cloud of smoke half a block away. Police quickly blocked off the area to make way for emergency vehicles, and there was chaotic confusion among the thousands of spectators. But they knew it wasn't good, especially as ambulances were whizzing past. Debbie scanned the crowds looking for her 27-year-old daughter.
"(My friend) and I just stood there for a little while, holding each other, not knowing where she was. It was horrible," Pomazal said. "Every second seemed like an hour, wondering where she was and if she was OK."
A short time later, Debbie spotted Ashley in the crowd, walking toward them.
"We just ran up to her and hugged her so hard ... and we cried. It was very emotional," Pomazal said. "We thought, 'OK. Now that we got her, we've got to get the heck out of here.'"
Their group walked six blocks to the hotel, where they got on their phones and computers, spreading the word to friends and family that they're OK.
The situation rattled the Pomazals, and they are grateful that they narrowly escaped this tragedy.
"My heart just goes out to the runners and the people," Debbie said. "You don't ever envision yourself being in the middle of something like this. It's surreal."