When Leo Verde turned from Hereford Street onto Boylston Street, it was an adrenaline rush. In sight, about three blocks away, was the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line, where his fiancée and now wife, Laure Stoma Verde, waited to celebrate his accomplishment.
Celebrations would have to wait.
As soon as Leo Verde started up Boylston, an explosion went off near the finish line. About 10 seconds later, yards in front of him, there was another, and this Boston Marathon would be remembered for everything but running.
When “Patriots Day” opens Friday in cinemas across the country, it will tell a story that millions already remember from newscasts. The Verdes, though, smelled the smoke, heard the cries of the wounded, felt the heat and concussion of the blasts. They may not be first in line, but they plan to see the movie.
“Will it be an uncomfortable situation? Without a doubt,” said Leo Verde, 52, who is the general manager of Sullivan's in Baton Rouge. “Those scenes of the bombs, it will be very, very uncomfortable. I don’t know how I’ll react. But I do want to see them showing the triumph and showing the job the first responders did.”
The first blast confused Leo Verde, who wondered if it might be a celebratory cannon shot— which would be odd because the race winners had crossed the finish line more than an hour earlier. Then came the second explosion.
“I went, ‘Oh, that is not celebratory cannons,’ ” he said. “I stopped dead in my tracks. … Should I go forward? Should I go backward? My train of thought was there was one there, one here. If there’s going to be another one, it’s behind, so I’m going forward.”
But not everyone was. Spectators jumped over the barricades and sprinted past him in the other direction, as did some runners. Near the finish line, he saw carnage.
“The flags were on the ground, barricades already down,” he said. “Police officers were jumping in there. They were carrying people out. I remember seeing a child being carried out.”
All the while, his fiancée waited at the finish line. Based on his expected pace and reports from the course, he should be near the end. Race officials quickly began taking down the finish line equipment and told her she needed to leave. Then, he arrived.
“Longest four minutes of my life,” said Laure Verde, 47.
Although his finish was recorded, Leo Verde did not receive a medal then. It would be mailed to him. As they hugged and surveyed the scene, Leo Verde saw a man whose lower legs were blown off being transported by them in a wheelchair. He turned his fiancée so she wouldn’t see the gruesome sight.
“He still had smoke coming out of his sweater and his hair,” he said.
In addition to helping victims, Bostonians assisted runners who were left stranded on the course when officials stopped the race, providing blankets and taking some into their homes until they could arrange transportation, Leo Verde said.
The Verdes returned to Boston and ran the 2014 marathon. As if to defy the bombers, crowds were bigger than ever. Leo Verde carried the 2013 medal in his pocket. When he crossed the finish line and was about to be presented the 2014 medal, he asked the presenter to put both on him at the same time, which the presenter did.
“Let me tell you: The city of Boston has a special place in my heart,” Leo Verde said. “Out of evil, I saw so much good after the bombs.”