Texas man witnesses explosions in Boston, West

Posted Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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People keep asking Joe Berti if he feels unlucky.

A bomb exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon seconds after Berti finished the race. Two days later, he was in his home state of Texas when he saw a fertilizer plant explode near Waco.

"I was just like, 'I can't believe this!'" said Berti, who said he had never witnessed an explosion before. Then he thought: "I just want to get out of here and get away from all these explosions."

But Berti, it turns out, is far from unlucky. Instead, he feels fortunate. He left both tragedies unscathed, while members of his running group and his wife -- who was closer to the Boston explosion than he was -- were also unhurt.

"It's a miracle," he said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press. "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."

The bombings in Boston, which happened about 10 seconds apart at the finish line of Monday's marathon, killed three people and left more than 180 wounded. In West, near Waco, a fertilizer plant exploded Wednesday, killing at least five people, injuring more than 160, and leveling homes, apartments and a school.

"We're grateful that God has been merciful to us," said Berti's wife, Amy. "We are just praying for the people who were so much less fortunate than we were."

Berti's road to the Boston Marathon started just a couple months ago, when he decided to run with Champions4Children, a charity that helps kids with rare and undiagnosed disorders and their families. He was one of eight Austin-area runners who ran the marathon with that group. Each ran for a sick child or "training partner," who tracked his or her runner's marathon progress from home.

"I had just run to the finish line and like 30 seconds later I heard the first explosion, and then turned around and saw the smoke," he said. "I knew immediately that it was a bomb ... Then the second explosion occurred and I saw a wave of people running."

Amy Berti was just yards from the first explosion, unhurt.

On Wednesday, Joe Berti had a daylong meeting in Dallas, followed by a museum tour. He was heading home on Interstate 35 nearing Waco when he saw black smoke up ahead to his left. As he drove closer, he saw -- and felt -- his second explosion in two days.

"You've got to be kidding!" he remembers thinking. He described the giant fireball as a massive force that shook his car. He said it looked like pictures of nuclear explosions that he has seen on television.

He didn't know what he had just witnessed -- but he pulled over and took a picture.

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