By JOE LOTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The first explosion at the Boston Marathon knocked Dr. Nancy Elwess sideways.
"I do have small cuts from glass (that I treated myself)," she emailed SUNY Plattsburgh Director of Public Relations Michelle Ouellette some hours later, "and I have ringing in the one ear."
The professor of biological sciences at the Plattsburgh college said she was 20 to 30 yards from the finish line when the bomb rocked the street.
"It is a scene that I do not want to witness again."
As news of Monday's explosions at the Boston Marathon spread, North Country residents frantically reached out to family and friends in the Boston area.
Among them was Holly Benoit, whose husband, Keith, was competing in his sixth Boston Marathon.
"Thank God his cellphone was working," she said. "I was frantic."
Keith had finished the race about 20 minutes before the explosions and was on a bus headed back to the start of the race in Hopkinton.
"He actually didn't even know what happened until I called him," Holly said.
The Benoits, who live in Plattsburgh, had been in Boston three weeks ago for their daughter's Irish Dancing competition. They were right near the bomb site.
"We recognized all the places we were on television," she said.
"I feel terrible."
When the news broke about the bombs, Sister Debbie Blow got her network working to check on North Country Mission of Hope members who live or were in Boston watching the marathon on Monday.
"So far, everyone we've heard from is fine," she said at about 5:30 p.m.
"It's so unnerving," the executive director of the Plattsburgh-based group said of the violence. "It seems like it never ends."
Betsy Sullivan, a former mission volunteer, is a student at Northeastern University and, when the first explosion occurred, was on her way to the marathon bleachers nearby.
She said it was very loud and got chaotic right away.
"It's just scary because it is still going on and is very confusing," she said late Monday afternoon.
"But I have to say the local news and the police and fire departments are all doing an excellent job. I just hope they can figure this out.
"I was pretty upset at first and was just bawling," she said in a phone interview.
Sullivan's father, Sean Sullivan, was in the World Trade Center when it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. He survived.
"That's exactly what this reminded me of," she said.
Sullivan, 21, is from Albany, but she traveled to Nicaragua with Mission of Hope several times, as did her sister, Mary, who is a student in New York City.
"My little sister was very upset and wanted to know if her big sister was OK," Betsy said.
Betsy said she instinctively headed right back home after the explosion and contacted her family. She planned to stay inside the rest of Monday.
"That's what the police are asking everybody to do. It's just so chaotic."
Danny O'Halloran, a sophomore at Boston University from Plattsburgh, was a spectator at the race and had been moving along the marathon route since 7 a.m.
He had not yet made it to the finish line.
"Last year, right at the same time, we were at the finish line right across the street from where the explosions where," he said by phone.
"If we had been there this year, we would have seen everything. It's hard to believe."
He was a few blocks away from the explosion when it happened; he didn't hear it.
"But we knew something was definitely wrong," he said.
A short while later, O'Halloran said, he was walking a friend home and they ran across some of her friends who had been competing in the race — they were about a mile away from the finish when the marathon was halted.
"It was very emotional. You have these people who have trained their whole lives for this, and with only about a mile to go, they can't finish because people died.
"It's just incredible," he said.
O'Halloran said he and fellow students tried to contact family members amid blaring sirens, but had some trouble as cell service cut out.
"People have been trying to Facebook their families or get a hold of them whatever way they could," he said.
"It's kind of horrifying."
Ali Pellerin, a Seton Catholic Central School graduate from Cumberland Head, lives in Brookline, about a mile and a half from the explosion site.
She said Monday was Patriots' Day in Boston.
"It's a huge day for Boston. The whole city shuts down, and it's big celebration for everyone, and it was a gorgeous day, and spirits were high," she said.
"And then this happened."
Pellerin, 24, said cell service cut out almost immediately after the bombing, creating some frantic moments for those trying to reach loved ones.
"I know a girl who was running in the marathon, and we had no contact with her for a long time but then finally found out she was about 6 miles away from the finish when it happened," she said.
In Texas, Beverly Morgan worried about her niece Amanda Durocher of Saranac, who was at the Boston Marathon.
Then Amanda connected via Facebook, she said.
With relief, she read, "I'm safe, praying for all my loves in Boston xoxo."
News Editor Suzanne Moore and Staff Writers Dan Heath and Robin Caudell contributed to this report.
FLIGHT FROM BOSTON
In light of the bombings in Boston on Monday, Plattsburgh International Airport Manager Christopher Kreig said airport personnel continued to monitor the situation.
He said the airport has security procedures in place, and those could be changed if it were deemed necessary. "We work with the Clinton County Sheriff's Department and TSA (Transportation Security Administration) to ensure the safety of the traveling public," Kreig said.
He said PenAir officials told him Flight 762, scheduled to arrive in Plattsburgh at 7:30 p.m., might be delayed but was expected to arrive Monday night.
According to the PenAir website, that flight left Boston almost 45 minutes late but touched down in Plattsburgh at 7:28 p.m.