It was shortly after 3 p.m.
Lyman Perry and Alan Ryan, both Big Island residents, stepped onto Hereford Street on Monday, where only a few hours earlier they had both run the final leg of the Boston Marathon.
They had showered and gulped their post-marathon beer, and about that time they expected to see dozens of runners striving for the finish line four blocks away, with spectators lining the sidewalks to cheer them on.
But what they found was completely different — a scene that Ryan, 42, of Laupahoehoe would later describe as “chaos.”
There was a woman crying while walking backward, police officers rather than runners racing by, and many others being comforted by friends and loved ones.
What started as an idyllic day for a marathon, with light winds and a sky partially blanketed by clouds, had been turned on its head.
“It was kind of surreal,” Ryan said during a phone interview from Cambridge, Mass., where he was staying with friends.
Moments earlier, Ryan and Perry, a Volcano resident, were sitting in a bar, celebrating the completion of another marathon and Perry’s best time yet.
As they were about to leave, seven women came running in and told them the news that replaced their euphoria with anxiety and confusion: Something bad had happened, possibly an explosion.
They walked out the back door onto Hereford, where the shocking reality began to sink in.
“Initially, you’re thinking it’s not that bad, it’s not that bad,” Ryan said.
But as passersby spread news of the two explosions and reports of casualties near the finish line, they realized there was no denying something terrible had happened.
“The emotions flood over you,” said Ryan, who had finished his sixth Boston Marathon. “It could be someone you know, it could just be anyone.”
Perry, 46, said he knew he had to do one thing: get away as soon as he could.
“I was just thinking I wanted to get out of there, get away from the crowds,” he said by telephone from a relative’s home near Boston.
“At one point, someone asked me if ‘you want to hang out and see what went down?’
“I said, ‘No, I think we should get out of here as soon as possible before they lock down this whole area.’”
The two runners soon headed in separate directions. As emergency vehicles screamed past, Perry and his brother-in-law found their way across the Harvard Bridge to their car on the other side of the Charles River.
Ryan, who had a hotel room nearby, chose instead to stay with friends who were with him.
With the subways closed, they had to take a train to leave.
At the same time, calls and texts from worried family members flooded in.
Elizabeth Perry, Lyman Perry’s sister, said she didn’t know if her brother, who had run the marathon eight times before, was there.
But she wasted no time calling and texting him and relatives in the Boston area, and soon got the good news she was looking for.
“I was unspeakably, overwhelmingly relieved,” said Elizabeth Perry, of Pittsburgh.
For the Big Island runners, it was hard not to feel fortunate, knowing they could have been caught in the carnage.
“It makes you realize it could happen to you,” Ryan said, as he compared what he saw to images from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “It makes it really real.
“Here you are in it. You are actually in it.”