NEW YORK — The Boston Marathon explosions and their aftermath were captured in chilling images that ran as relentless tape loops of terror online and on TV networks Monday, a sickeningly familiar routine in an age of violence designed for maximum impact.
Broadcast and cable-news networks were on the story full time within an hour of the detonations. Screens barely cut away from the scenes. One video repeated dozens of times quickly became iconic: an overhead shot of the race’s finish line with the blast flashing behind spectators on the right, knocking Bill Iffrig, 78, of Lake Stevens, Wash., to the ground. He was not injured.
Another video, taken by Steve Silva of The Boston Globe, showed the first explosion from ground level. As the camera panned over scurrying people and injured lying on the ground, the second blast goes off a short distance down the street.
Whoever responsible made sure it was not only horrific but well-documented. It happened at the heavily populated finish line of the centerpiece event of Boston’s Patriots Day holiday, “almost like New Year’s Eve in broad daylight,” said NBC News’ Brian Williams. It was a place certain to be filled with cameras held by professionals and amateurs alike.
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Several times, CBS News ran what appeared to be smartphone footage taken shortly after the first blast “Something just blew up,” a woman said. Then the picture becomes fuzzy as the second explosion is heard.
“Run! Go!” the woman shouts.
Television networks depicted chaos but were restrained in showing gore. One oft-repeated image showed a woman with a bloodied leg being rushed away from the scene in a wheelchair.
One of the most gruesome images, a still photograph taken by Charles Krupa of The Associated Press, showed a man being pushed in a wheelchair. His lower leg was blown away, with bloodied bones hanging down. The Atlantic magazine’s website used Krupa’s image but required users to click on a warning before viewing it.
As with most of these breaking situations, there were reports that proved unfounded and injury estimates that changed as the hours wore on. For a brief time, it was believed that there was an explosion at the John F. Kennedy Library, but that proved to be an unrelated incident.
In the early hours, there was little active speculation on who might have been responsible. CBS’ Bob Orr noted that experts were not seeing the type of chatter that would have indicated this was a wider-scale event. Jonathan Karl of ABC News talked about the timing — how Patriots Day in Massachusetts and the day taxes are collected might have been a trigger.
Social networks were filled with conversations, with celebrities like LeBron James and Paula Abdul offering sympathy to victims. People on Twitter were also urging television networks — and fellow tweeters — to show caution in what they were reporting to avoid inflaming the situation with false details.