Ben Thorndike of Concord is a “Marathon junkie,” a four-time runner at Boston, and a passionate amateur photographer who arrived at work near the finish line Monday with plans to chronicle the day in pictures.
He had photographed the gathering crowd, the winners, and then the middle-of-the-packers. But at 2:50 p.m., from a third-floor window, a startled Thorndike captured the first explosion and its immediate, bloody impact in stunning, rapid-fire sequence.
Now, Thorndike said, the FBI has contacted him about the photographs as its agents hunt for evidence.
In the photos, one young man is shown running from the scene. The contrast between him and everyone else nearby — bystanders who appear stunned, deafened, and immobile — prompted Thorndike to alert a friend in the broadcast media to the photos, which then led to interest from the FBI, he said. The agency could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
“All I know is his actions are in significant contrast to virtually every other person in the photo,” said Thorndike, 55, who works in marketing for Feingold O’Keeffe Capital. “It was gripping to see the contrast of his situation versus everybody else.”
Thorndike stressed that he is not labeling the man a suspect. “For all I know, this is a guy who was watching the race who got burned” by the explosion, Thorndike said.
Instinctively, however, Thorndike knew he was capturing something important. As the blast rocked the sidewalk below him at Boylston and Exeter streets, he kept the camera pointed and shooting.
“I was looking toward the finish line, and right before me there was a huge explosion, a fireball, a deafening boom,” Thorndike recalled. “I basically knew it was a bomb. My gut instinct said it was horrific, and my brain said to aim the camera and push the button. I started shooting almost instantaneously.”
With the camera turned to “sports mode,” Thorndike said, the photographs were taken at quick, automatic intervals. When the second explosion happened 12 seconds after the first, Thorndike said, he found himself standing in the shards and broken panes of three or four windows. It was then that he and other office workers realized they had to flee the building.
Once he arrived home, Thorndike said, he began the work of discovering what he had photographed.
“It was with a significant amount of trepidation when I downloaded the pictures, because the scene looked gruesome — the huge explosion, the people down — but I also realized I had to see what was there,” Thorndike said.
“What I saw, clearly, was that there is a story in these photos.”
Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.