BOSTON -- Army Sgt. Lucas Carr had just finished his sixth Boston Marathon and his second running to raise funds for the Boston Bruins Foundation. Before he and girlfriend Erin Coyne, who ran with him, could even begin to celebrate their accomplishment, Carr heard a noise he recognized all too well from his time serving his country overseas as an Army Ranger.
The first of the two bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon was all Carr needed to hear to know that he and those around him were suddenly in the midst of a terrorist attack.
"Yes. No doubt," he said when asked if he knew what the sound was. "Let's put it this way too: I knew it wasn't a sewer cap. I knew what it was right when it happened. I really didn't want to turn around and look, but I had to and I ran to help. I was with my lovely lady, Erin. I ran back, and I told her where to go and I would meet her there. I then ran into a scene that looked like a war zone."
But as Carr pointed out, what he was in the midst of Monday afternoon in the minutes following the marathon bombings was unlike anything he had ever seen.
"There was no way to disguise anything or any body language to distort how that felt for anybody and how that went through our bodies. Not for anybody," Carr said. "Even guys who see this every day serving our country or medics that see it every day, they were all white as a ghost, and I'm sure I was too."
This was in the streets of their city, and while the damage was similar, it was all the more horrific because they were not overseas fighting to protect the freedom that acts like this attempt to take away.
"When you get on that plane to come home, it's not like you would ever expect it to be here," Carr said. "... But yesterday, that puts a whole new meaning to everything. It makes us [military veterans] feel angry, it makes us feel disappointed, and it makes us feel helpless right now.
"But we're not helpless because we have the best EMS system in the country; we have the best police and fire departments in the country; we have the best hospitals in the country and the best doctors in the country. Those are the guys that are keeping the ones that were severely injured alive right now so the [death toll] remains at three."
For the last three years, Carr, who played hockey in Norwood as a teen and grew up a Bruins fan, has formed a strong bond with former Norwood High School hockey player Matt Brown, who was paralyzed in a game on Jan. 23, 2010. Carr and his fellow Rangers named a mission their platoon went on "Operation Mustang Hope" in honor of Brown and the Norwood Mustangs hockey team. He then brought the flag back home and had it signed by all the soldiers in Bravo Company 2-35, 3rd Platoon, and the Bruins before presenting it to Brown in November 2010. Last year, Carr ran the marathon while Brown in a wheelchair. He had intended to do the same thing Monday, but Brown has been suffering from pneumonia for the last two months and was not cleared by doctors to participate in the race.
"Thank God his doctor said no and lucky that he didn't run this year," Carr said. "It would have been hell for him to get out of there."
But for those like Carr who did run and had to experience this horrific moment, it will always be a tainted memory. As Carr pointed out, the sense of accomplishment for fiishing the 26.2-mile race is hard to savor right now.
"The feeling you get as an individual after you've completed a marathon is like no other," Carr said. "It's six months you've put into training and changed your whole lifestyle. You've put in an effort to raise money for a charity to change and help somebody out. When it's over, it's like my mission is complete and here's my medal to prove that I made a difference in my life and somebody's life today, and I can reflect back at this day and realize what I did. I did this and nobody can take that away from me.
"But now for those who were at what is our Ground Zero, this will be with them for their entire life. More importantly for those who ran and ran for charity, this will be the most memorable marathon for them no matter what. The winners, the ones who compete, this will be the one they remember for their entire life. It was something that was like a winning and losing situation all at the same time."
Carr was able to meet his girlfriend in the South End of Boston and got home early Monday night. Since then, he has been inundated with phone calls from not only loved ones but also media that saw photos of him helping the victims. As his workday wound down Tuesday, he admitted he was emotionally dazed and just wanted some normalcy to return.
"All I want to do is my paperwork and quote 'The Big Lebowski' with my co-workers," he joked.
If and when the perpetrators are brought to justice, maybe that feeling of normalcy for Carr will return. Until then, he promised to help the Boston community as much as possible and urged others to do the same.
"At this point, it's in federal and state officials' hands to sort it out and see who did this," Carr said. "I'm sure intelligence and good leads will get justice on whoever this coward was or cowards were. But it's hard, and I feel for the guys trying to get that justice because they don't know their target. We had our targets pretty much all the time. This is going to be hard. Until then, we need to keep coming together as we have already. That right there is defeating the people that did this."