GAINESVILLE, Ga. — In the moments after the blast, everyone responded.
People knelt to apply pressure to others’ wounds. They used the dress belts from their pants as tourniquets.
Allan Panter, of Gainesville, was about 30 feet from the explosion Monday at the Boston Marathon, waiting for his wife Theresa to cross the finish line.
“When it goes off, it’s so loud.,” he said. “And the lady to my right, she screamed and started running.”
He moved to the right with the crowd. Two to three steps later the second bomb went off.
He stood up, expecting more bombs to go off down the street. He looked to his left and saw a woman who had gone down and a man putting pressure on her leg. Panter, the emergency room director at Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva, N.C., told the man exactly where to hold pressure.
He stood up again, turned and saw a pile of injured people. He got to work.
He’s being called a hero, but he said he was just doing his job. The people who don’t deal with blood every day, but responded anyway – they are the heroes, he and his wife said.
Allan Panter and his wife flew up Saturday to enjoy a few days, eating decadent cannolis, visiting booths at the annual expo that features all kinds of running gear and stopping at the Dunkin’ Donuts.
Theresa has been running the marathon off and on since 1999. On Monday, Allan was monitoring her place in the race, with a chip on her shoe transmitting the time to his smartphone.
As she neared the finish, he began pressing toward the barricade at the end of the course, getting his phone ready to take her photo as she ran by.
Then the blast hit.
“I had my headphones in and I heard the first of what I thought was a cannon,” Theresa said. “And I thought, ‘Well, wow, I have never heard them shoot off cannons at the finish line before.’ But then seconds later, the second blast, which was closer to where I was coming into, I became more aware of my surroundings. ... People were coming towards me and they were panic stricken and immediately we were turned backwards.”
She and other runners were taken to an area five blocks away.
She knew Allan was at the finish line, and she started panicking.
In fact, he was with Krystle Campbell, 29, one of the three people who died. Allan didn’t have a scratch on him.
The sheer number of personnel was astounding, he said. The medical tent was well-equipped, with cots lined up and IVs waiting for dehydrated runners. At one point he remembers someone running up with gauze, throwing it out for people to use to make tourniquets.
Allan said he has little concept of time from that day, but after helping, he eventually told someone that if he wasn’t needed, he was going to look for his wife.
He had received texts from random phone numbers saying: “I’m OK, are you OK?”
Theresa doesn’t run with her phone so she had asked to borrow others’ phones to get a message to him.
In the chaos, she never thought to identify herself. And she never heard back from Allan.
The couple has four children, the youngest who attends Gainesville High School, and the others in college or law school. The children received the random messages as well.
Haley Panter, who is a nursing student at Brenau University, had been tracking her mother’s time on her phone, and thought she should have finished. A friend called to tell her she had better call her dad because there had been an explosion.
“So then I called Dad and asked what was going on,” she said. “And Dad was calm, but he said that there were two explosions and that he was helping people, and that somebody had died and that he couldn’t find mom. And then he had to get off the phone.”
That sent her over the edge, Allan said.
She and her siblings began texting each other. Finally Haley’s sister, Brittany, got a response from one of the numbers that said their mom was OK.
Allan, too, texted one of the numbers back, and the person on the other end told him she wasn’t there, but she was fine.
Freezing after the run, without the normal food and blanket handed to her at the end of the race, Theresa was moving around just to warm up. They were finally given mylar blankets and allowed to leave the area, Theresa said, after about an hour and a half of waiting.
They were instructed not to get on the buses where their bags were, but Theresa and another runner squeezed through the slats of fencing and she grabbed her bag and cellphone.
She got off the bus and called Allan, leaving him “a terrible voicemail, crying.”
Allan called her back and told her to run down the middle of the road, don’t go near trash cans and meet him.
“We met up in Boston Commons, and of course Allan was covered in blood,” Theresa said. “Our reunion was quite a tearful one. One thing I have to say – after 30 years of marriage, I realized how much I’ve taken for granted. I appreciate his presence in my life and who he is to me, so we’ve had a lot of crying.”