Friday, August 16, 2013

Boston Marathon: Transcript of Interview with Forum Employees

The following is the transcript of an interview with five Forum employees, aired on April 19th by NBC in Brian Williams' "Rock Center", recording date unknown. Apart from the introduction and the final remarks, I transcribed the entire interview. The interviewer is Harry Smith. I apologize for possibly spelling names wrong and transcription faults. The video is here:

For unknown reason Callie Benjamin, who also was working at the Forum and whose story was reported by several local newspapers, is not among the interviewees. Therefore I put her statement in front of the transcript to put it into perspective. I abstain from any comment for now, just to say that the reason I posted this interview is of course its relevance for the epicenter question.

"It sounded like a cannon or something," Benjamin said. "We didn't know what it was. An employee went to another window to see if something exploded and all of the sudden the second explosion went off and the windows shattered."

As customers began to panic, Benjamin yelled at them to stop running. She ushered them through the kitchen, down the back stairs and into an alley.

After that, she went to check on the main-floor dining room and patio. The explosion had blown people onto the main stairway, keeping her from getting there, but she saw the damage it caused. "There were a lot of people lying on the floor covered (in) glass and blood, a lot of glass and blood," Benjamin said.

After being blocked at the stairs, Benjamin saw her manager and an owner running down the back stairs. She asked what she could do to help and followed them to the basement.

SMITH: What was it like in the restaurant Monday morning?

CHRIS LOPER: It was exciting, you know. I remember getting in just before 8 o'clock, turning the music up and was just very upbeat, sunny day...

OFF: Chris Loper is the General manager of Forum, 200 yards from the Marathon finish line.

JULIE WHEATON: It was such a beautiful day, everone is excited for the Marathon to watch the race and for the Red Sox game...

OFF: Julie Wheaton is a former Forum bartender who came back to work just for Patriots' Day.

SMITH: What did you write on your Facebook page?

JULIE WHEATON: 6 o'clock in the morning I wrote: coming back for once, a last special stand to my favorite bar in my favorite city on my favorite day.

OFF: Noone had an inkling of what was about to happen. The restaurant and its patio up front were getting more crowded by the minute.

(video clip - first explosion)

SMITH: Where were you when you heard the first explosion?

JOSHUA GLOVER: I was two feet behind the host stand in the front of the restaurant. I thought it was a cannon, some sort of celebration, something or other...

OFF: Joshua Glover is an assistant manager. He says after the initial blast up the street most of the restaurant's patrons moved toward the front to try to figure out what was going on. It was the worst place they could be.

SMITH: Where were you when the first explosion happened?

JAMIS MADEIROS: Right in front by the VIP section. It kind of shook the building a little bit, and people all around me were pressing forward and turned their neck down the street to see what it was ...

OFF: James Madeiras is Forum's assistant GM. Before anyone could understand the nature of the source of the first explosion the second bomb blew up directly in front of the restaurant.

(video clip - second explosion)

SMITH: Second explosion happens. What's the first thing you remember?

JAMIS MADEIROS: I was looking right out. There's a mailbox right there. And I was looking at the mailbox when it blew up, so I saw the actual... just an orange fire, looked like a huge firecracker or something. You just see it blossoms. As lot as the first one was, the second I don't ever recall hearing it to be honest with you, I just remember the... my mouth was full of grit, I recall for some reason it was just like dirt or dust or something, like also my whole mouth was just gritty and dirty, you know I feel like "Oh my God, this is really happening!" - and just people falling, there's glass everywhere, so I was worried about people falling on the glass. And everybody is running towards the back, people ducked behind couches - it was just the most (unintelligible) scene I've ever seen. It was just chaos, it was crazy.

OFF: Heather Gilbow was also bartending that day.

HEATHER GILBOW: I remember it hitting me that it was something... someone was trying to hurt people, it was intentional, the second explosion. I remember screaming and then I remember getting my bearings and looking up and just seeing people run.

OFF: The able-bodied and the slightly injured rushed out the back exit, but not the employees. They stayed. They've seen a scene of carnage that was difficult to comprehend.

SMITH: July - does anything prepare you for witnessing what you witnessed?

JULIE WHEATON: No, no... you literally just... it's instinct... and you just go and do what you can to help people. The first thing what I did I checked on my friends that were on the ground and then I grabbed ice and towels... and then I went up to the front and that's when I saw... complete... you know... nightmare, massacre. There was blood, there was people on the street, on the sidewalks, you know, on the patio... you know... there is a body part here that I saw and there is something else over there, but there's so much blood and you don't stop and think you don't get yourself a chance to realize what is actually going on.

OFF: Forum employees became first responders.

CHRIS LOPER: The most injured people were out just in front of the patio, but because of the uncertainty there were people bringing them into the restaurant to try to aid them. There were members of our staff that were right there holding on to people, taking their belts off to stop, you know, bleeding and different things like that.

OFF: Many of the people the Forum staff helped were strangers. Others they knew well, quite well, like Julie's friend Heather Abbott.

JULIE WHEATON: She's actually in the hospital right now, she's getting a surgery today. They are trying to reattach her foot.

SMITH: All of it is so traumatic, but you have somebody you know, have a friend of yours, almost have...

JULIE WHEATON: I feel guilty.

SMITH: You feel guilty?

JULIE WHEATON: (begins to sob)

SMITH. Why do you feel guilty?

JULIE WHEATON: (still sobbing) Thinking that she's there and seeing me.

OFF: Forum became a makeshift triage center. Aiding and comforting the wounded was the only concern.

JAMIS MADEIROS: We talk about like what people did to help and you see like binding up the injuries and stuff like that. And my most enduring image is a bartender. He was sitting on the floor. He had an injured woman's head on his lap. He was stroking her hair, comforting her. And that to me was all she needed. In a horrible time it was a beautiful thing to see just something so simple.

SMITH: What makes you say: I'm staying here and help these people?

CHRIS LOPER: I think it's just human nature, it's the nature of the people that work at Forum. It's the nature of a lot of people from Boston. You see someone hurting and you want to help.

OFF: An instinct so strong that even when the were ordered to leave, noone botched.

CHRIS LOPER: It was funny. Once the police came in - I remember so vividly them saying "Everyone get out! Everyone get out!" And I was saying "No!" This was one of the few times when you could say that to a police officer. (chuckling)

SMITH: In language perhaps a little more colorful than that?

CHRIS LOPER: Perhaps a little more Bostonian and colored than that, yes Sir.

OFF: Only one former employee was seriously hurt, but he's doing fine. The reality of what happened Monday is still sinking in.

JAMIS MADEIROS: It's amazing to me that more people weren't killed by the explosions, it's amazing to me that more people aren't hurt. I look at the pictures and them crying out (unintelligible) I work, and I know that. There was nothing between me and that explosion. I don't know how - it didn't. I'm lucky I'm alive, I'm lucky I wasn't hurt, like these guys here aren't hurt... it's amazing.

JULIE WHEATON: You know at the end of the day after I had a chance to reflect on everything I was angry. I was so angry. You know - people took this great day, this great holiday, this amazing day, it's everyone's favorite day in Boston, and ruined it.

SMITH: Stunning to me to think: you really are at the heart of the terror, and you all stay. Are you heroes?

EMPLOYEES: No. No. No. No.

JAMIS MADEIROS: You know like some people (unintelligible). We were at the wrong place at the wrong time, but we did the right thing.