A Photographer’s View of the Carnage: “When I Look at the Photos, I Cry”

Cover photograph by Bill Hoenk
Cover photograph by Bill Hoenk
The cover of TIME's digital edition, a Special Report on the Tragedy in Boston.

Freelance photographer Bill Hoenk was on hand to document the chaotic aftermath immediately following the second explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. His photographs, which may be the only images recording the scene of the second blast, show a Boston police officer carrying a wounded child. One of Hoenk’s photographs is the cover image of TIME’s May 6, 2013 digital edition.

“I was there about 40 minutes or so when the first explosion happened,” Hoenk tells TIME. “We saw the smoke and heard people screaming, and then within seconds, the second explosion happened directly in my line of sight, 30 feet away. There was a lot of chaos.”

Hoenk began photographing the scene around him, going “into a zone,” as he describes it. “I was horrified by what I was seeing, but there was some sort of instinct that said, don’t worry about that, just keep shooting, because you’re the only person with a camera around that I could see and it needs to be done. So I kept shooting.”

“I remember looking down and seeing a baby carriage upside down with people running over it,” he remembers. “It really freaked me out. I leaned over to pick up the baby carriage — there was no baby underneath — and so I started [moving] with the crowd. I jumped over the barrier separating the crowd from the road and ran back to see if I could help. There were a lot of people, and then I just started taking photos.”

Hoenk was using a telephoto lens at the time of the blast. Caught too close to the action, Hoenk had to “move back quite a ways” to capture the full scene of the policeman carrying the child away. “I saw the cop lift up the baby. When I look at the photos, I cry. The baby was screaming.”

After a few seconds, the police started “frantically screaming for people to leave” the scene immediately, worried about the chances of a third explosion.

“That’s when I decided that I didn’t want to be there anymore,” he said.


Bill Hoenk is a freelance photographer based in Boston.

Reporting by Patrick Witty.


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