Armando Ibarra-Espinoza had just arrived at a friend’s house in a suburb outside of Boston when his cell phone began to chirp.
It was then that the 25-year-old Ripon native learned of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon finish line – the same finish line he had crossed in triumph earlier in the day.
Two explosions about 20 seconds apart shook the final paces of America’s most prestigious road race on Monday afternoon, turning a euphoric atmosphere into that of a horror scene.
Smoke and screams filled the air. Glass, building particles and people were blown about the sidewalks and street. Blood stained the ground.
Three were killed by the reported bomb blasts, including an 8-year-old boy, and more than 105 were injured.
Ibarra-Espinoza finished the marathon well ahead of the explosions. He covered the 26.2-mile run in 2 hours, 49 minutes, 44 seconds, according to the Boston Athletic Association’s website.
The first explosion occurred at the 4:09 mark of the marathon. The second one followed about 20 seconds later. As of press time, Boston authorities were also investigating a third event at the John F. Kennedy Library.
“I’m glad I didn’t get caught up in all of that,” said Ibarra-Espinoza, a senior at Humboldt State running in his first Boston Marathon. “I’m pretty fortunate to have avoided the mayhem.”
Ibarra-Espinoza says he was on a subway when the explosions occurred and didn’t learn of the attacks until he reached Somerville, a suburb outside of Boston. Somerville and Boston are approximately 3-4 miles apart, separated by the Charles River Basin and Longfellow Bridge.
His first call was to his mother, Gladys Ibarra.
“First thing I did was call my mom and let her know we were alright and that we didn’t even know what was going on,” he said.
“Luckily I got through to her before the lines got tied up. It was an immediate outpouring of concern from everyone back home.”
One of the first text messages he received was from Demitrius Snaer, the Modesto Junior College track coach.
Snaer coached Ibarra-Espinoza from 2009-2010 at MJC, where he helped contribute points to a Big 8 conference championship.
Ibarra-Espinoza ran the 800- and 1,500-meter races, as well as the steeplechase. He went on to run the 800 for Humboldt State.
“He’s OK,” Snaer said. “He got back to me pretty quickly. … I was surprised that he got back to me so quick, because I considered the fact that cell service would be bad. It was good to hear he was OK.”
Ibarra-Espinoza will remain in the Boston area for another night, he said, before returning to Northern California.
He was traveling with friends from Humboldt State, where he says he has one semester left.
Ibarra-Espinoza needed only one attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon, punching his ticket in San Francisco.
His time in Boston was a personal best.
“Any personal achievement seems silly next to that,” he said without pause or emotion.