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Photographer Bill Hoenk Shares His Experiences and Thoughts About the Boston Marathon Bombings

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Editor’s Note: This is first of two articles written by Mr. Hoenk about the Boston Marathon. This post was written one week after last year’s marathon, while the other was written yesterday after he photographed this year’s marathon, and describes how much of a healing experience this year has been. If you would like to read only the uplifting post, we completely understand. You can find that one at this link.

If you do read on, be warned: some of the images in this post are graphic in nature.


It’s been a few weeks now since that fateful day when life changed in the blink of an eye for so many of us.  Two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day rocked this city and country to the core. Two explosions that I witnessed. Two explosions that I’m hoping will not haunt my mind every day for the rest of my life, and I know it’s a hope shared by countless others that bore witness that day of the destruction and anguish on Boylston street.

I’m not a war photographer. I’m not even a professional photojournalist.  I don’t work for a newspaper or a magazine. I’m not associated with any photo agencies.  I’m a fine art photographer and I wait tables on the side to pay the bills and support my passion. I love nature and life and I’m most at peace when I’m by myself, lost in the woods or barefoot on a beach with my camera capturing photographs of beautiful vistas and sunrises and sunsets. Anyone who’s seen my art would agree, I photograph pretty things.

I do have formal photographic training — I was a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh about seven years ago, and I was an enthusiast for years before that. I’ve had my photographs published in several publications since then and my images have won numerous awards over the years including First Place in the Photojournalism category of Digital Photo Pro’s Third Annual Emerging Professional Photographer Competition, Pro’s of the Future. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not a professional photographer in the sense that I make a majority of my income from photography, but I have well over a decade of experience behind the camera and frankly, I know what I’m doing.

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That being said, at 2:49pm on Monday, April 15 2013, I found myself in a situation that I’m still having trouble comprehending. All those years of hoping someday to be in the right place at the right time with my camera to capture that once in a lifetime image took on a whole new meaning that day and I can truly promise you — it’s not worth it. Not this way. Not at this cost. I’m now on a path of healing like so many others and this past week has passed before my eyes as if I was in a semi-lucid trance. Functioning, but through a surrealistic haze of disbelief at what I witnessed and photographed that Monday afternoon.  

Little did I know when I woke up that morning that I would be taking a photo that would end up as, what some people are saying, one of the more controversial images to be published on the cover of Time Magazine. I know I didn’t do anything wrong but damn, that’s a huge weight to bear and I’ve been tearing myself up inside, emotionally as a human being, and ethically and morally as a professional photographer trying to come to terms with what happened and how I reacted.

There has been a lot said about the role of photographers and journalists in situations like the one we were presented with when those bombs ripped apart our lives, and it’s my hope that hearing my story might help others with the healing process much the same as their stories have helped me with mine.

I woke up excited Monday morning. It was Patriots Day, I had the day off of work, the weather was warm and beautiful, my taxes were done and the Boston Marathon was in town. I planned to take the red-line into downtown, enjoy a leisurely day strolling through the crowds, snap a few candid shots of the runners and then meet some friends by Fenway for some beer and food. I’m not a big fan of running or marathons but I knew it was going to be a huge event, and I knew there was going to be an endless supply of runners so I was looking forward to experimenting with different techniques with my camera and settings to get some artsy action shots.

After exiting the T at Boston Common I made my way toward Boylston Street, and Forum Restaurant. When I moved to Boston from Nantucket about a year and a half ago, my first job in the city was waiting tables at Forum. Even though the restaurant wasn’t my speed, I was there for a couple of months and I made some good friends, my first in Boston, and I head back there every now and then to say hello and catch up. It was my intention to head toward the restaurant to grab a couple of beers, connect with some old co-workers and then set up shop in front to try to get some good photos of the runners.

After inching my way through the crowded sidewalks, next to hundreds of runners just finishing up the race, I made it to the patio at Forum and realized instantly that I wasn’t going to be able to fulfill my plan. There were just so many people around that going inside for some beers would have been pointless, instead I started trying to find a good vantage point to start taking some photos by the street. The crowd in front of Forum was three to four people deep along the barrier that separated the street from the spectators and even though I tried I couldn’t get through to the front unless I were to knock some people out of the way.  I considered standing up on the big mailbox I saw in front of me, having that high vantage point would be ideal for getting some shots that I wanted, but then I thought of all of the drunk Red Sox fans on the patio behind me who probably wouldn’t have taken kindly to me blocking their view and decided against that approach. Upset, I decided to just keep heading up the street in the general direction of Fenway. After about 50 feet or so I noticed a couple standing right by the barrier to the street looking like they were about to leave so I waited directly behind them and immediately eased into their spot as they walked away. I took my first photo from this spot at 1:45 and continued creatively shooting the runners for the next hour. About a half hour in I decided to change to my telephoto lens to get some close-ups of the runners’ exhausted faces.  These athletes were in the last 500-600 feet of a 26 mile long course and the expressions on some of the faces were downright comical and I wanted to capture that. A half hour later countless lives were altered forever when two bombs exploded on the sidewalk near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

I had just taken a photograph of a runner dressed like a gladiator. I was looking down at the screen on my camera to see if I had captured his eyes in focus through his mask when I heard a loud explosion down toward the finish line. My first thoughts were “that’s too loud to be a back-fire or a gunshot” and when I looked toward the sound I saw the white smoke billowing into the sky. I instantly thought then that it was a canon fired into the air, maybe a tribute or something to a veteran just finishing the race. It was hard to tell what was going on — the smoke was about a hundred yards or so away, and then I heard the screaming. “Something is very wrong” I was saying to myself, “this isn’t right, this isn’t right.” I started to bring the camera back to my face so I could get a closer look through my telephoto lens when the second bomb detonated directly in my line of sight about 50ft or so away, directly in front of the patio at Forum and pretty much exactly where I was standing an hour before trying to find a vantage point to shoot from.

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From that initial moment it seemed like everything was in fast-forward and slow-motion all at the same time. I don’t know how else to explain it. There was an intense flash of light for a split second followed by body parts plopping unceremoniously to the ground through the white smoke. There seemed to be a moment of silence in the crowd as everyone was in utter shock and disbelief at the horror we all just witnessed. I felt like I was deaf, and then screaming started and slammed reality back into all of our faces and chaos erupted. The crowd started stampeding away from the blast. I was standing directly next to a small tree, one of those decorative ones they plant on the sidewalks so I had a small barrier between me and the fleeing spectators. I turned away from the blast in the direction the people were running and I noticed a baby carriage laying upside down on the sidewalk with people running over it, and I became enraged. A bomb had just gone off and all I could think about in that moment was wanting to scream at these people for trampling a baby while trying to escape. I reached down to pick up the carriage at the same time as another man reached for it and we both saw there was no child under there. That man immediately took off and I jumped over the barrier and into the street. I remember thinking in an instant that all these people were crazy for running away up the sidewalk. One bomb I can understand but two bombs could be the beginning of a chain reaction and I had visions of bombs being detonated one after the other every hundred yards or so up Boylston. I simply prayed for that not to happen for the sake of all those people as I ran back toward the second blast sight. I wanted to see if I could help and I figured the safest place to be was where a bomb had already detonated.

From that point on I don’t remember doing anything, I just reacted to the situation. I knew that with the telephoto lens on my camera I wouldn’t be able to take any photos if I had the chance once I got closer, and I had no idea how bad it really was, so I stopped for a split second and snapped off a few of shots of the scene before I got too close. I continued toward the victims and I noticed cops rushing in to the scene to help. They looked just as confused and scared as everyone else but they didn’t hesitate as they jumped in trying to get control of the situation. I heard police officers telling people to stay back so I stopped to gather in my surroundings. I saw bloodied bodies on the ground faintly through the haze of smoke that was clearing. I saw courageous people ripping their belts off to use as tourniquets and kneeling over the bodies on the ground. I saw cops with guns drawn. I looked all around the street and noticed that there was no one else around with a camera taking pictures, which I remember surprised me for a moment because there were hundreds just before the explosions, then I looked back at the blast scene and saw more people helping the victims. It was then that something just kind of snapped inside of me and I immediately and completely detached myself from the emotion of the situation and started shooting, looking for angles and framing shots to tell the story. I was operating on pure gut instinct. It felt like I wasn’t even in my own body. I felt a responsibility to document what was happening. It needed to be done and so I did it. I’m a photographer, there was no question. The camera became practically glued to my face, the lens moving from one horrifying image to the next. I wasn’t crying. My heart wasn’t pounding.  All the noise went away.  I remember feeling calm and I didn’t understand why. Everything else in the world was forgotten except for what I was seeing in that little rectangular frame in my viewfinder, from scene to scene, then my viewfinder landed on a little boy being held up by a police officer in the middle of the carnage. I made the photo. The cop started running right at me with the little boy. I made another photo. The little boy was screaming, he had blood in his hair, I didn’t know if it was his blood or the blood of someone else. I made another photo, then it felt like something snapped in me again. Seeing that little boy, seeing that blood on his head, hearing his cries brought all of the emotion back like a ton of bricks and I made the next shot, the Time cover shot, through a veil of tears.

Pictured: Officer Thomas Barrett of the BPD. Read his story here.
Pictured: Officer Thomas Barrett of the BPD. Read his story here.

I stopped, brought the camera away from my face and I remember standing there for a moment feeling like I was going to faint. I watched the cop sprinting down the street toward the medical tent cradling that boy in his arms. I looked back at the blast site, wiped my eyes and took a couple of more photos. I felt like I was going to faint again and suddenly the police were screaming frantically for everyone to get back, to leave the area because there might be a third bomb.  It was then that I decided I didn’t want to be there anymore. I was desperately struggling to control my tears as I turned around and started heading up Ring street. I stopped and looked back one more time. I saw a woman with her leg disintegrated below the knee. She was lying on her back with a police officer kneeling next to her, comforting her and holding her right hand, another man kneeling on her other side, fingers locked with her other hand, and a calm looking young man applying a tourniquet to her thigh. She looked right at me then she looked away. I made the photo then I turned back around and started walking away.

All of this happened in five minutes. According to the metadata embedded in my photographs, I took the first image of the aftermath at 2:49pm and the last at 2:54pm. It seemed like a lot longer than that.  In that five minutes I took fifty-one photographs. Only four have been published, the others were deemed too graphic and therefore not suitable for publication.

I started speed-walking up the street chanting to myself  “don’t cry, don’t cry, hold yourself together.” I tried calling my best friend and roommate to tell her what had happened and to come get me. I knew the city was about to go on lockdown and I wanted to get home, and get the images I took to law enforcement, and to the news. No cell phone reception. I knew why and was relieved for that but still mad that I couldn’t get through. I needed a ground line and the restaurant I currently work at was only a few streets away, plus, the people I work with there are like my family. I needed that.

I made it to The Beehive in a matter of minutes. The restaurant was opening earlier than usual that day to accommodate the rush they were expecting from the marathon. I walked in the front door and one of my managers could see I was visibly upset and trying to keep myself together. She immediately took my arm and led me down to the office. Once I was sitting in that office chair behind the closed door I just completely broke down. I couldn’t control it anymore. My manager brought me a shot of whiskey, then she brought me another shot of whiskey, then she brought me a glass of whiskey. I took some time and I calmed down.

Meanwhile one of my other managers was able to get someone on the phone from the Boston Globe. They told me to hang tight — they were sending one of their photographers my way and he could upload the photos from my memory card and get them to the paper.  Once the Globe photographer arrived and we met, I saw the tears in his eyes and the tears rolling down his face too and seeing that comforted me. We walked several blocks to where his car was parked, got in, started up his laptop and began the transfer.

He asked me if I would be OK sitting in the car with him while he viewed the photos, he needed me to describe the scenes to him and help caption the ones that he thought would probably be used. It was the first time I had actually looked at the full images and I was shocked by what I was seeing. Looking at those photos it really hit me that had I found a good vantage point to shoot from in front of Forum, as was my intention, then I would either be dead or legless right now. I had to get out of the car. I couldn’t stop thinking about that. I should have been a victim. I guess I was meant to be exactly where I was. That’s some heavy shit. Once the photos were uploaded he said the Globe would be in touch and we parted ways.  Cell phone reception returned and I received a phone call from my roommate, she was close by — she’s a volunteer for the Red Cross and got the call to come in and help. She left to come get me and I finally made it home.

I talked with friends and family, I let people know I was safe, then I passed out on the couch while watching everything I just witnessed play out again on the news. I slept fitfully for a couple of hours before waking and beginning the task of downloading, editing and filing all of the photos from the disaster. I was not looking forward to staring at these images over and over again for the rest of the night but it had to be done.  I passed out again at about four in the morning with the sound of that screaming baby echoing in my head, yet thankful for being alive and whole.

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I awoke Tuesday morning and immediately reached for my iPad. I stayed in bed for about an hour catching up on the news and looking at photos and video from the marathon, including a couple of mine, mostly on Boston.com. I got out of bed, showered, and walked down to the gas station to pick up a copy of the Boston Globe and grab a cup of coffee. Minutes later, back in my room I found one of my photos in the sports section of the paper, page C9. I sat in front of my computer and opened up my email. Messages started trickling in.  A radio station in Ohio saw my photos and wanted a radio interview,  NBC News wants to license my photo, something about the Today Show, a newspaper in Australia, a news show in Israel, another publication in London. I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed and knew that I needed to find some guidance going forward. Sure, I had photojournalism classes while in school but that was over seven years ago and I haven’t worked at all in that capacity since then. I started reaching out to past instructors from AIP, I called my dearest friend, a Pittsburgh based photographer and she put me in touch with one of her friends, and he put me in touch with Patrick Witty, the international photo editor at Time Magazine. After sending the initial message to Patrick through Facebook, introducing myself, and explaining my situation he asked if I could pass the photos along to him to review, which I did, then I waited. I had received so many calls and emails at this point from random news agencies from all over the world that I was getting disgusted at the almost animalistic need for these people to get their hands on my photos. Once they found out that I was the one who took the photograph of the cop carrying the kid to safety, the first words out of their mouths were “How much do you want for the photograph? Do you have any more? Will you sell your outtakes?” One person even went so far as to tell me that the more graphic the photo, the more they will pay me. I was sickened, and getting really pissed. Everyone got the same scripted answer from me: “I am not releasing any more photos at this time. Thank you. Goodbye.” Click.

And then the editor from Time Magazine called me back. He and the staff at Time had just reviewed my photos and the first words out of his mouth when I answered the phone were “Are you OK? How are you doing?” He proceeded to spend the next several minutes consoling me, offering me guidance and support and helping me understand that I didn’t do anything wrong by taking these photos. I could hear the genuineness in his voice and it mattered. He was handling me with compassion and empathy. Only when I was ready did we start discussing the photos.  I answered his questions and realized only after that this was more of an interview. I’m staring at the images on my computer screen as we’re talking about them. I have tears streaming down my face. I remember him asking me if I remembered taking the photograph of the man holding the little boy with the severed leg. I did not. Then he asked me what I feel when I look at my photos, and with the tears falling freely I simply said “When I look at the photos, I cry.” The two of us continued talking for a few minutes and then he hung up with the promise of being called back when their staff figured out how they wanted to move forward with all of the information. So I waited.

One of my best friends from high-school just happened to be in Boston for a couple of days for work. He was touring with Fleetwood Mac and they had a show at the TD Garden on Thursday. I drove down to the Galleria near where he was staying and we met at the Cheesecake Factory for some lunch. I needed to get out of the house and being able to hang out with him for a few hours was exactly what I needed. We caught up about old times and old friends, talked about his kids and had a couple of beers, the whole time I’m trying to keep the tears back as I see video and photos of the carnage over and over again on the TV above the bar. We both had the whole day off and decided to go for a long walk. I didn’t want to go home yet and I didn’t want to be alone. As we were heading toward downtown I get a phone call from the media department of CNN. They wanted me to come in to be interviewed by Anderson Cooper for his show Anderson Cooper 360. They wanted me to talk about the photos I took in a 5 minute segment live in their Boston-based studio. I reluctantly agreed. I gave them my address and was told I would be contacted again shortly with more information and that they would send a car for me later in the day. At that point my friend suggested we head back, get one more beer, and then I should go home and prepare myself for being on TV. I agreed. We stopped back to the bar at PF Chang’s. I was having a hard time holding it together. The TV behind the bar kept showing the blast videos over and over again. We both had one more beer pretty much in silence. When the bartender brought our check she also gave us a couple of fortune cookies, said it looked like we might need them. I opened mine, read what it had to say:  ‘Life always gets harder near the summit.’

After getting home and showering again. I received another phone call from Time. I was told that they would be doing a special tablet only edition on the Boston Marathon Bombings with my photo of the police officer carrying the child as the cover. We talked some more, I signed off on the photo, then we hung up and I waited for CNN to call back. I responded to a bunch of new emails with my canned answer of not releasing any more photos at this time. Later I received an email saying that my segment on CNN was getting dropped due to breaking news. I was fine with that, they rescheduled for the next day. Later that night Time released a preview of the new cover. It was moving, it was powerful, and I knew instantly that it was probably going to be controversial. I was completely drained. I fell into a fitful sleep again to the sound of that little boys screams still echoing in my head.

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I woke up early again on Wednesday morning. My phone was ringing non-stop with numbers I didn’t recognize. My email was loaded with new messages from more news agencies, messages through my website of support from complete strangers thanking me and telling me to stay strong and that seeing my photos were helping them deal, messages from hateful people accusing me of being the worst kind of scum on this planet for exploiting the pain of children for my own profit… It seemed never-ending. My Facebook page was inundated with support from friends and family from all over the country, posting articles they found about my photo on-line. I read them all and they helped me deal. I shared a few funny posts myself — I needed to laugh. I felt compelled to learn more of what people were saying about the cover photo.

I googled my name and found dozens of articles. I read all of them. One article in particular, through Yahoo, had garnered over 10,000 comments from readers when the author asked if Time had gone too far with their choice of cover photo. I spent the rest of the day reading every single comment. I felt it was my responsibility. I took that photo. It’s partly because of me that this discussion is happening. I wanted to understand what people were thinking and the more I read, the more certain themes began to be noticed.

One major issue people were having was that they believe that Time and myself were sensationalizing the event and using shock-value to make money and sell magazines. I can’t really speak for Time, other than the fact that they were professional and compassionate with me when everyone else was foaming at the mouth to get their hands on my photographs. As for me, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I’m not looking for fame or fortune at all. Not like this. Time handled this delicate situation with tact and honesty and I stand by their decision to make my photo the cover. People need to get mad. People need to understand. People need to see the truth. This shit is real. I’ve always been on the outside of the media looking in when tragedies happen and are reported on in this country and around the world. I can assure you, it is very, very different when you’re caught on the inside looking out. It will change you.

Another repeating theme I found was that people didn’t understand why such a shocking photo of a kid was chosen instead of showing a photo that represented the outpouring of help and compassion from the first responders to the scene. People were disgusted at seeing all of the blood and gore and said it was completely unnecessary and that media should have focused on showing the people helping instead. Well here’s what I have to say to that — you can’t really have one without the other. Like I stated before, I took over 50 photos of the aftermath of the explosion and almost every single one of them shows just that, brave and courageous people helping and probably saving the lives of the victims they were treating. No one will probably ever see these photos though because they are helping people with their legs and feet blown completely off and the blood and gore is very real, and very graphic, and that’s just not ok for people to see, and that makes me mad. I didn’t hide anything when I was taking the photos, I made sure to capture all of that detail on purpose because it is the truth. I saw it, the people who lived it saw it, the people who ran saw it. I believe these photos need to be seen, even though I don’t want to show them. This happened in our backyard, and people should see the truth, and they need to remember.

I understand where family and friends were coming from, telling me to stop reading all of these articles and opinions, that it will not help the healing process. Maybe that’s true for some people, but not for me. These articles and comments helped me. They helped me understand that I didn’t do anything wrong, and they helped me realize that it’s natural to have the feelings I’m having. Still not helping me sleep though.

Pictured: Matt Patterson, an off-duty firefighter and medic for the Lynn Fire Department. Read his story here.
Pictured: Matt Patterson, an off-duty firefighter and medic for the Lynn Fire Department. Read his story here.

I woke up Thursday morning to new phone calls, new emails and more support. I had slept fitfully again through the night but I was able to get more than just a couple of hours. I didn’t want to deal with anybody or anything so I turned off my phone and ignored my mail. I just wanted to get out of the house. I wanted to see how I would cope and handle myself in public. I had heard the term PTSD more than a few times now and I refuse to believe that I was, or would become a victim of that. Yes, I did witness a traumatizing event but I know myself. I knew I would be able to sleep again. I knew I would be able to laugh again. I knew I would stop randomly breaking out into tears again. I knew time was the best medicine, I just didn’t know how much time it would take.

I decided to make my way toward the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The president was speaking and I wanted to pay my respects, and I wanted to be around other people that had been affected by this tragedy. I wanted to see how other people were coping and reacting.  It definitely was a tearful day.  I took the train to Park Street and walked through the park toward Back Bay. I found myself more or less retracing my steps from Monday.  People were everywhere and I found myself in a constant exercise of self-control.  Every cop I saw, I saw the face of the cop I photographed. Every little boy I saw reminded me of that poor screaming boy I photographed. It was so hard, I kept my eyes down mostly. I couldn’t look at people without becoming overly emotional. 

I made my way through the park and toward our President. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see or hear him, I just wanted to be there. It was a media circus. I had never seen so many reporters and cameras and news trucks concentrated in one area in my life. Reporters were everywhere with their photographers looking for stories that were better than the last. People were clamoring for face time.  I stood close to one lady for a while who was a runner in the marathon. She was probably in her late 50’s to early 60’s. She was enthusiastically talking on camera about her day on Monday. I wasn’t really paying attention to what she was saying but she was very jovial and reveling in the attention. When she was done with that interview she actually looked up and smiled and said, “OK! Who’s next?” Another reporter and photographer rushed in to take the place of the last one. She told the new reporter they should change their vantage point so it doesn’t look like she’s standing in one place just doing interview after interview. She climbed up onto the SUV she was standing next to and told the reporter to shoot up at her so they could get the pretty sky in the background. She asked how she looked and started fixing her hair. I know I shouldn’t have been but I was so disgusted with her. I know she had a story to tell, we all did, but it seemed she was just looking for the spotlight, her 15 minutes of fame. I felt she was exploiting the events so she could be on TV. She came off to me as the same type of person who vilifies journalists and media for exploiting the images and events for profit. I could be completely wrong but the thought was still in my head — how is she any different?

I didn’t want to be next to that woman anymore. I thought if I walked back toward Boylston Street I might be able to get a glimpse of the blast sights again. I don’t know what I was thinking. Of course the streets were still closed so I walked through the Prudential Center looking for access, looking for a view, anything. I don’t know why. I found myself walking back to the Police Station in the South End are, compelled to find out the name of the cop I photographed, now on the cover of Time. I desperately wanted to talk to him, someone — anyone who saw what I saw. I needed to meet him and I stupidly thought the police officer at the counter could help me, not even thinking of how busy they were with the President a few blocks away, or how crazy I seemed. Looking back it seems I was in a semi-catatonic trance, just walking around the city like a zombie. Just walking. My meandering led me to the memorial on the corner of Boylston and Berkeley. There were a lot of people leaving flowers and messages and paying their respects.  I never leave home without my camera and I wanted a photo. I pulled my camera out, the first time since Monday, kneeled down to compose a shot, and what I read through my viewfinder just made me completely lose control. I’ve never in my life sobbed like that in public, my whole body was shaking. I was thinking of the victims, their families, the horror, how so many people are going to be struggling with this for so long. It was heart breaking. There were photographers all over taking images of the memorial and of the people paying their respects. When I started sobbing, I could hear the unmistakable sound of high-speed shutters clicking away on several cameras. I knew I was being photographed and it was humbling, knowing I had just become the subject of those photographs during such an intimate moment. I’ve always been the one taking the photos, capturing the raw emotion, not the other way around. I was glad people were taking these photos, I didn’t feel as if it was an invasion of my privacy, I was actually happy that some photographer was capturing those images of me, if I was in their shoes I would have been doing the same thing. I knew I would probably never see the photos that were taken of me, as much as I’d like to though.  I do want to put all of this behind me and move on with my life, but I don’t ever want to forget how all of the events made me feel. Maybe I’ll come across those images somewhere, someday.

As I was walking back toward the park and the subway, I was planning on going home, I wanted a nap, but I still didn’t want to be alone. It was really hard being in public but I was around people and that felt good.  As I was walking through the park I was noticing police just everywhere. There was a military police officer standing on the corner of Arlington and Newbury Street. He was in full combat gear and holding a gun that was bigger than he was. I had never seen anything like that in real life yet there he was, one of many stationed on the streets of Boston, to protect us. I wanted to take a photo but I ended up just standing there blatantly staring at him for a few minutes and thinking to myself, “Welcome to the new America.” I had had enough for the day. I was drained. I went home, I kept my phone off and I tried to sleep.

A phone call from my mother before 7am Friday morning pulled me out of a thankfully dreamless sleep. She asked if I was watching the news, and so started my day watching the events in Watertown unfold. It was a long day, but a better day.  I was hungry again and my roommate and I made some food. Our neighbor joined us for the company and we all watched TV and talked about the events of the week. We napped. When the lockdown was lifted, we turned the TV off and went for ice cream.  We joined our neighbors for dinner. When we were finished dining we turned on the TV and noticed that the second suspect had been taken alive. We watched the celebration for a while. We laughed at the genuineness of Channel 7’s news reporter Adam Williams. My friends were ready to party, I just wanted my bed. I said my goodnights and headed home. As I lied down in my bed it started raining. I thought it was quite symbolic and I fell asleep happy thinking of the city being cleansed from the events of the last week.

I want to thank all of my friends and family who have shown their support through this ordeal. It was definitely the most difficult week of my life, on so many levels, and all of your words have helped with the healing process.

I have turned down quite a few interviews from people wanting me to share my story. I decided I wanted to tell it on my terms, without the influence of the mainstream media or being interviewed on politically charged talk shows. That’s why I decided to write this blog post. I initially had no intention of this turning into almost seven thousand words. I just wanted to share some of my photos taken before the explosions, with an account of what happened, but the words kept coming. I realized I needed to write all of this. I needed to get all of this out of me and put somewhere else. Writing this was very therapeutic, and now that I’m done I feel like I can try to start living normally again. I’m still torn up inside about everything that has happened. Yes, I have an image on the cover of Time, but it is the most bittersweet experience. I think about that cop every single day. I think about that little boy every single day. I have no idea who he is and I have no idea if his family is ok. I’m sure I’ll find out eventually. I want to meet these people. I want to thank them for being so brave. I want to hug that little boy.

I’d like to share some photos with you, photos of people, friends, family and strangers coming together to run in the greatest marathon in the world. We’ve all seen plenty of photos of death and destruction in the last week so hopefully some of these will remind us of how strong and resilient we all can be.



















About the author: Bill Hoenk is an award-winning freelance and fine-art photographer based out of Boston MA. When Bill Isn’t working on client projects, he enjoys roaming New England, Cape Cod and Nantucket at night, chasing the stars and painting with light! You can find more of his work on his website. This article originally appeared here.

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