By Michael Vega, Globe Staff
Neil Gottlieb 44, of Philadelphia had just crossed the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon in 3 hours 40 minutes and was filing his way through a chute to get some water and snacks when a pair of explosions near the finish line on Boylston Street that “almost lifted us all off our feet,’’ he said.
“There was one very large explosion probably maybe 100 yards from where I was standing,’’ said Gottlieb, a 44-year-old from Philadelphia. “It almost lifted us all off our feet. There was no mystery as to what had just happened. Then, maybe, within two seconds later there was another explosion, it didn’t seem quite as big, but there was clearly there as a mushroom-type cloud.
“There was no question that some sort of bomb or something went off there.’’
Gottlieb said security immediately began to clear the finish line area.
“We just all turned and started heading back, away from the finish line,’’ he said.
Gottlieb’s wife, Kim, and their three children were about to walk into the Copley Plaza Hotel, where they were staying, when the explosions went off. Gottlieb’s wife and children were hustled to safety inside the hotel, where security personnel placed the hotel on immediate lockdown status, but their father was still unaccounted for outside.
The family was tearfully reunited in the hotel’s lobby a short while later.
Gottlieb stopped short of terming the explosions as a terrorist attack. was at a loss to describe what kind of explosion it was.
“I don’t know what it was,’’ he said. “Part of me hopes that it was some sort of malfunction of equipment that was there, but it didn’t seem that way. If it was something more than that, it’s an absolutely tragedy if anyone got hurt. It’s a scary event.
Gottlieb had just completed his second ever attempt at the Boston Marathon.
“My hope is that no one who was finishing the race, or the spectators who came and worked so hard to be at this race, got hurt or injured,’’ Gottlieb. “It’s a dream for a lot of people and to have it end that way would be a tragedy. Actually, for those of us standing here in the hotel, it’s a disappointing end to a spectacular day. It was seven months of training that led up to this, but that’s irrelevant if people got hurt.
“So, it’s surprising, because if someone wanted to do something like this, why would they do it at the end of the race? The day’s pretty much over, if you’re trying to make some kind of a statement. It seems quite silly to me to hurt innocent people in a situation like this.
“That’s what makes me think and hope that it was something other than an attack.’’