FORT MILL, S.C. -- Demi Clark ticks off the seconds after she heard the first bomb go off.
“It's almost like a stopwatch,” she said Saturday.
“Click, I see his face.”
“Click, I see the first site of the blast."
“Click, and the runners next to me on the ground.”
She was just 10 steps from the finish line of the Boston Marathon when he heard the initial blast. She didn’t realize it was a bomb until she saw the race official’s face in front of her.
“He had this very horrified look on his face,” said Clark. “Immediately, I turned to the left, saw nails at my feet .. glass .. BB’s -- didn't have any idea what that was at the time -- now we do,” she said.
“I saw the immense carnage, and people, and just things I didn't ever want to have to see, or have my family see, or have happen to anyone,” she continued. “And before I could process that, the second bomb went off.”
Clark said she had just waved to her family -- her husband and two daughters, ages 7 and 9 -- as she neared the finish line. She was emotional after the long race because it was the first one the girls had ever seen her finish. She wants to be their role model.
Then, the blast. The carnage. The panic a mother feels the instant she senses her children are in danger.
“I just turned to panic mode -- Where was my family?” she remembers thinking. “At the time maybe we thought the bleachers would be next.”
She turned and saw her 6’4 husband with a daughter under each arm. The race official urgently guided her to the tunnel but she protested – she had to go to her family. They reunited quickly and left the scene.
They walked for blocks and Clark remembers she was likely in shock. She hadn’t had anything to eat or drink after the race.
She and her family were lost because cell towers were jammed and they couldn’t access their digital maps. A woman from a leasing company guided them inside her building and helped.
They eventually made it back to their hotel, and then home.
This week has been one for recovery, but constant news coverage – especially Friday’s manhunt – made it worse.
“People asking, ‘Are you happy they caught the first one?’ and I said, ‘No, I'm uncomfortable. My daughters are ridiculously upset.’”
She didn’t watch TV all day Friday. She couldn’t handle the constant theories and rumors. She wasn’t ready.
“It's just tearing off the band-aid and keeping people in this terror state,” she said. “And it was just so awful.”
When she heard police had the second suspect pinned down, she couldn’t take her eyes off the TV until he was caught.
“Last night, it was just an amazing relief for the whole city,” she said, exhaling. “How could you not be happy for them?”
More than her own recovery, she has been focused on helping her children, who witnessed the attack. Her 9-year-old daughter came home from school with a hand-drawn wanted poster of the man who hurt so many people.
“Sunburn,” said one description next to the face, which had wounds on it and an eye patch. “Rewarded $5000.”
“To see that picture,” said Clark, “It just brought it all home to me this morning.”
The support she’s received from everywhere has helped. She visited lemonade stands in her neighborhood where kids raised money for bombing victims. She joined another group in a morning run. She said her new goal is to forget the little problems that make her mad, and pay the generosity forward.
“That's my charge,” she agreed. “Whatever I can do to help people from now on, I'm all in.”