Boston Marathon bombing: Eyewitness News reflects on the 2013 attack

Eyewitness News Chief Meteorologist Lee Goldberg and reporter Jim Dolan reflect on the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013

ByLee Goldberg, Jim Dolan, and Emily Hartmann WABC logo
Saturday, April 15, 2023
Boston Marathon bombing, 10 years later
Eyewitness News Chief Meteorologist Lee Goldberg and reporter Jim Dolan reflect on their experience witnessing and covering the Boston Marathon bombing.

BOSTON (WABC) -- Ten years ago, on April 15, 2013, three people were killed when two pressure-cooker bombs detonated 11 seconds apart on Boylston Street near the finish line of the iconic 26-mile Boston Marathon race.

The marathon draws hundreds of thousands of spectators to the race every year, from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to Boston's Back Bay neighborhood.

More than 26,000 runners participated in the race in 2013, marking the 117th time that the world's oldest annual marathon had been contested.

When the attack occurred, more than 500 people were physically injured, including 17 who suffered amputations.

The bombers also took the life of Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police officer who was executed while on patrol.

In the decade since the Boston Marathon bombing, the streets and sidewalks have been repaired, and memorials stand at the site of the explosions to remember the three who died.

Eyewitness News Chief Meteorologist Lee Goldberg and reporter Jim Dolan reflect on their experience witnessing and covering the Boston Marathon bombing.

"It would be no surprise to our viewers, you know that I have a special place for Boston. Obviously, that grew up there. A lot of my family's still there. Everything started there. You know, married my middle school sweetheart," Lee Goldberg reflected. "I'm in New York now, but, but it's a very special place. So when my brother decided to run the Boston Marathon, that was something the whole family was going to get together for and cheer him on. So I was going to be there."

In 2013, Lee's younger brother, Scott Goldberg, lived in Florida.

"I made a few friends down there, who were runners, then I just started jogging with them a couple of miles, and few miles. And then one of my friends says, I'm gonna go run a half marathon, the Disney half marathon and he's like 'do it with me' so I said, 'yes', without really thinking about it. I trained for it and it was a fun race," said Scott. "I was very happy and continued running. I just started thinking about marathons."

That's when Scott started thinking about the Boston Marathon.

Scott started training for the Boston Marathon while living in Florida and decided to raise money for Boston Children's Hospital.

When Scott was in high school, he had a significant operation and loved his experience with the doctors and staff at Boston Children's Hospital. After his experience there, he started volunteering at the hospital, alongside his mom. Scott's mom continues to volunteer at the hospital to this day.

"It was a great motivator for me to just keep training," said Scott. "I always want to run a marathon, just chop it off the bucket list. But the goal was I had to do it in under four hours."

So, on April 15, 2013, Lee and his family decide to watch Scott run his very first marathon.

"A little chilly in the morning - great for the runners - we were all excited conditions were good," said Lee.

The family's first stop to watch Scott was going to be Heartbreak Hill - around mile 20.

"That's the very famous grueling stretch that the runners have to get through and they need the most help. So our whole family was there. And I literally, you know, saw him (Scott) hunched over trying to get up Heartbreak Hill. So I ran next to him for a little while, getting tired on my own," said Lee. "I was so proud of him and then finally I just sort of let him go over the hill, and down, you know, approaching the limits of Boston."

"I saw the family. That was a huge help to get me up the hill, I think my brother jogged with me a little bit up the hill because I was struggling so badly to get to the top of the hill. And once I did it, it was a struggle. But I finally got to Boylston Street," recounts Scott.

After Scott continued on his run, the family jumped in the car to race to the finish line toward the center of town.

"We're racing toward Copley Square, running into traffic, you know, my dad's driving. So I said 'Let me just jump out, I know, I can get there, I'll weave through'. So I start running. Scott wanted to finish this, his goal was always sub four hours or at least around four hours," remembers Lee, "I know I want to get to that finish line, you know, by four hours."

As Lee weaves through the crowd, he hears a pop in the background.

"There maybe was some smoke on the horizon, but I'm thinking it's celebratory fireworks. I mean, are you just not in that mode of thinking something went wrong," recalls Lee. "I'm making my way but all of a sudden, I'm running into some roadblocks. Like I can't get to where I'm going, I just think it's too crowded. Then I hear a second pop. So now you see people running. So I know that there's a problem and that's when I start to get nervous."

Scott had finished his race in a little over four hours and passed the finish line a few minutes before the first bomb went off.

"I didn't have a cell phone on me. I knew that my family was somewhere near the finish line. It was a very scary moment," recalls Scott.

Luckily, the family had been across the street from where the explosion happened and were not hurt or in danger. Lee though was still separated from the group.

"I'm alone now separated from my family because I ran out of the car so they don't know about either of us at this point. And finally, I get a call," said Lee.

Lee got a call from an unknown number and luckily, it was Scott. Scott had run into an old friend that he had trained with back in Florida. She lent him the phone and he was able to call Lee.

After hearing from Scott, Lee was able to report back to the family that he was okay. Both brothers and their families reunited a few hours later.

"It was a terrible experience that unknown forever how many minutes it was to not know the status of my family and that was the worst part," said Scott.

A producer from WABC, Jay Holder, was also running in the marathon. He had finished the race before the explosions occurred, but as the day unfolded, he met up with Lee, and with a cell phone, they started live coverage.

"That afternoon, my brother was in enough of a decent state that he could get on and talk about his experiences," recalls Lee.

Meanwhile, back in New York, the news started to break about the explosions in Boston.

As soon as he heard the news, Jim Dolan rushed to the office, got in a news van, and started en route to Boston.

"A lot of the details were not clear yet. So we were just focusing on what happened. Clearly, it was an act of terrorism," said Dolan. "All those people lining the route all of those thousands of people, the vast majority of them adults, and they chose deliberately to put one of those backpacks directly in front of the child. They chose that kind of terror. And that is what I always think back on that this. This wasn't a momentary thing. They intended to terrorize this country. And that's what they did."

Bombing survivors with no previous interest in distance running made it a bucket-list goal. For others, friends and family entered on their behalf.

Doctors and first responders and others affected by the attacks on April 15, 2013, have also been drawn back to the race on the Massachusetts holiday of Patriots' Day.

The 127th Boston Marathon is Monday, April 17, 2023.