NEWINGTON — April 15 of this year started off as a quiet day for Harold Kramer, chief operating officer of the ARRL National Association for Amateur Radio, based in Newington. But on volunteer duty as a ham radio operator at the Boston Marathon, it soon became a day he would never forget.
Kramer, a Cheshire resident, witnessed the Boston bombings that left three people dead and more than 260 injured. He recounted his experience at a meeting of the Newington Kiwanis Monday evening at Paradise Pizza in New Britain.
Kramer was one of 150 licensed “hams” who volunteered at the annual event, relaying information to and from the starting and finish lines, medical tents and buses on site. As assistant to the Marathon’s Medical Director Chris Troyanos, he was inside the medical tent near the finish line when the first of two bombs exploded about 300 feet away.
“All this white smoke started rolling in and people started looking at each other like, what the hell was that?” Kramer remembered.
Suddenly the net control center that all operators were required to call every 30 minutes was flooded by reports coming in from up and down Boylston Street.
“That’s when they started wheeling in people — some bleeding pretty badly — and all non-medical personnel were told to leave the tent,” said Kramer, who was asked to help bus dispatchers transport people out of the city.
“I had to be prepared because anything could happen,” he added. “I had my yellow jacket and IDs on so I looked official, and people were asking me, ‘how do I get out of here?’” It wasn’t long before the command center told radio operators to leave Boston and let police, fire and EMS personnel handle the disaster. The day may have been over for Kramer, but it was the lessons learned in emergency planning and response he will carry forever.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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