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One Man, Two Blasts: Austinite Witnessed Both Boston And West Disasters

Joe Berti has had an unbelievable week. And one in which he’s counting his blessings that he's alive.

On Monday, Berti finished running the Boston Marathon minutes before the bombs went off. His wife, Amy, was standing near the finish line, yards from the first blast. Two days later, as he drove from Dallas to Austin, he saw – and photographed – the explosion in the Central Texas town of West.

“When the second one happened, I said, ‘I cannot believe this. I can’t believe this is happening,’” Berti tells KERA.

Berti said his car shook and he heard debris land on his car. He stopped momentarily to snap a photo of what he described as a “mushroom cloud” and “crazy loud” explosion.

“I kept looking up in the sky and wondering if anything else was gonna fall,” he said. “My next reaction was just to get away from there and get out of there as quickly as I can.”

In Boston, he'd been running for a charity that helps children with rare conditions. And when he finished the grueling race, he was barely able to walk. Then came the explosions, and Berti spent an hour looking for his wife.

And now, he hopes his weekend in Austin is a little less eventful.

“I was exhausted after the last few days,” he says.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.