43-year-old Joe Berti is in a unique position: He’s possibly the only individual to have personally experienced both the Boston Marathon bombingand the huge fertilizer plant explosion near Waco, Texas.
It has been a week of tragedy and high drama in the US, and one man has seen it all. When a bomb exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, Berti had finished the race just moments before. Two days later, he was an eyewitness to a fertilizer plant exploding as he drove through his home state of Texas.
As Berti tells The Associated Press, “I was just like, ‘I can’t believe this!’ I just want to get out of here and get away from all these explosions.”
However, far from feeling cursed, Joe says he feel lucky.
“It’s a miracle,” he said Thursday. “People keep saying, ‘Don’t you feel unlucky?’ and I was actually the opposite – saying not only do I not feel unlucky, but I feel blessed that my wife could be 10 yards from the explosion and not have a scratch.”
Berti’s wife, Amy, added:
“We’re grateful that God has been merciful to us. We are just praying for the people who were so much less fortunate than we were.”
Berti chose to run the Boston Marathon back in February. He was one of eight runners from the Austin area entering the race for Champions4Children, a charity that assists kids with rare or undiagnosed disorders and their families.
In the final four miles of Monday’s marathon, Berti felt his body shutting down, and his pace slowed. As it happens, he was just quick enough. He recalls:
“I had just run to the finish line and [moments] later I heard the first explosion, and then turned around and saw the smoke. I knew immediately that it was a bomb. Then the second explosion occurred and I saw a wave of people running.”
At that point, several questions raced through Berti’s mind. He was unable to run any further, and worried about getting caught in a stampede. He was concerned about members of his running group, some of whom were behind him. And, above all, he was concerned about his wife, Amy.
Fortunately, Joe’s running partners and his wife were all safe. Although Amy Berti was just ten yards from the first explosion, she escaped unhurt – a woman right next to her had her leg torn off from the knee down, and lost all the fingers in her left hand. After Amy had assisted the stricken woman, she immediately started looking for Joe.
“I had just watched him cross where that bomb was,” she tells The Associated Press. “So I didn’t know if he made it through and I couldn’t find him. I started to freak out a little bit.”
Almost one hour after the bombs had gone off, the couple were reunited at their hotel. But more drama was to follow.
After returning to Austin Tuesday, Joe went to work the next day. As he was driving home on Interstate 35 on Wednesday night, he observed a pillar of black smoke up ahead to his left. Just moments later, Joe saw his second explosion in three days, a colossal fireball he describes as a “massive force that shook my car.” He pulled over and took a picture.
“My next reaction was to get out of there because something fell on the top of my car – some debris or something fell from the sky,” he says.