'Get out of there'

Pat Sauter was 100 yards from another Boston triumph when he was stopped cold. There was a sharp blast just up ahead. A large, smoky plume dispersed. He couldn't understand what it was, and had the thought: Celebration?

Sauter had just started to continue forward when 13 seconds later — boom — a second blast. "Right then and there, I knew this was major problems."

He spun around, unsure what to do or where to go, but his sense was the bombings might be moving in succession down Boylston Street. His only way out was the intersection ahead, where the second bomb had just gone off. Once there, he saw "a lot of horrible stuff."

The response also was dramatic. Medical personnel were quickly engaged, and Sauter clearly regretted that he wasn't "more productive or helpful." But weary, cold and confused, his instincts told him to "get out of there, because I didn't know what was coming next."

Sauter's brother was waiting with his own two girls near the finish. By good fortune, they all met up several blocks away.

Once a few steps from elation, Sauter's finish was not at a historic line on the asphalt, but instead inside a hotel room. "I didn't feel safe until then," he said.

'I am uncertain'

If Sauter is trying to put some meaning to the depth of his experience, the answer might come Monday when he's back on the streets.

"I am uncertain of how it is going to impact me," he said. " … I did have a lot of dreams and thinking about that in the days immediately following the race. I've been able to block it out, some of those thoughts. I think about it, but I don't dwell on it."

Under ordinary circumstances, he wouldn't have returned to Boston this spring. But 2014 is special, and a return became imperative.

"A big part of my motivation for running is to send my own, small message to the terrorists or the bad people out there that they can't keep us from doing this," he said.