"We had to, at that point, also make sure the bomb dogs went in and made the whole area safe because two bombs had gone off and we were just afraid another one might go off. So we had to render that scene safe, then surround it to protect the scene, and then slowly but surely and methodically process the scene. And we left the bodies there because we wanted to process the evidence that was on the bodies."
CHRISTINE LANDRY FELT the ground move under her in Medical Tent A.
"You heard it, you felt it," she said. "I was actually kneeling on the ground at the time, because the tent is [set up] right on the street [outside the Central Library], so you're basically on the street. Kneeling on the ground, you felt the whole ground, the whole ground just shook right under you. We looked at each other and we were like, 'Oh my God, what was that?' Before you could finish the sentence, the second one went off. And then we knew.
"Within moments, not even minutes, moments, people started running -- I guess all the EMTs. I was at the back of the tent, where the EMT space was. And where I'm an emergency room nurse, they're all my friends. I know them all. That's basically who I hang with when I go to the tent, I hang with Boston EMS. So they ran like bats out of hell. They had radios. We didn't really know in the tent exactly what was going on at least for a few minutes. And then when they started bringing the patients in, the ambulance park site, where all the ambulances were, was on other side of the A tent. So every patient that came through had to come through the tent in order to get to the ambulances.
"So they just started running [the injured] in and it was just the shock of, 'Oh my God, this is really happening.' Like you're not sure what you're seeing. And then you see one patient. You see another patient. You see [the EMTs] come in and they're doing CPR. And you're like, 'This has to be it.' And it wasn't. They just kept bringing them in and bringing them in. And basically we did the best we could.
"[We] grabbed gauze, tried to do tourniquets on anybody who was missing limbs. We had Band-Aids and IV fluids, so that wasn't really what those patients needed at that time."
Landry, a longtime ER nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, has seen gruesome injuries before. She's seen people missing limbs. She's seen people with burns. But she'd never seen anything like this, in a volume like this, in a setting like this.
She was amazed at the speed things moved around her. As EMTs and first responders started bringing patients in and then rushing them out to waiting vehicles, someone had reset the tent -- scrawling signs reading "Triage A," "Triage B" and "Morgue."
"They announced over the loudspeaker, 'Anyone who has Level Trauma I experience, please stay. Anyone who doesn't, please leave,'" she said. "So they said 'Take all your bags, take everything.' So in seconds, the pens emptied out. A lot of the patients, the runners that were there, grabbed their stuff and left. And we still had quite a few runners that were too sick to leave that we had to take care of. And we had a large amount of patients coming in.
"Patients, their families, people were screaming, people were in shock. It was, it was chaos, complete chaos.