The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 16, 2013

‘It shook the whole building’: Ex-Chief was nearby when deadly blasts went off

Mike Mastovich

JOHNSTOWN — The initial blast got the attention of Mike Rodrigues and his friends who gathered at a restaurant located near the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon.

The concussion briefly interrupted their conversation as the group celebrated on Patriots Day, a holiday that gives workers and school kids the day off each April and coincides with the running of the nation’s most prestigious marathon.

At first, Rodrigues, a former Johnstown Chiefs hockey player, thought he had just heard a “confetti cannon” firing to commemorate the race’s finish.

After the second explosion, Rodrigues and dozens of other patrons at the Boylston Street restaurant had no doubts that something terrible was unfolding on the sidewalks and street just a few feet away.

“We were at a party at a restaurant right in between the two bombs, right next to the second one,” Rodrigues said Monday night, hours after the explosions that killed at least three people and injured more than 100. “It shook the whole building. People started to freak out.

“The first one sounded like a confetti cannon. The first bomb went off right at the finish line,” he continued. “We were a block out from the finish line. We were inside. We heard that. Everybody kind of stopped talking for a minute. We started talking  again. Then 10 seconds after that, the second blast was right outside. We grabbed our stuff and ran out the back door of the kitchen in the back alley.”

Boston native Rodrigues, who played for the ECHL’s Chiefs from 2001-03, and his friends saw the horrible effects of what is being labeled an act of terror.

“There were people running from the street. They were carrying one guy in the middle of the street and one leg was gone,” Rodrigues said. “It was mayhem. People were confused. Then some people really started to panic. There was screaming and crying. We tried to calm them down.

“After the second one, you knew what was going on but we didn’t know what else was coming. You don’t have time to really be scared, I guess. You react. Then after you get out, you think about it.”

As of Monday night, hospitals in the Boston area reported 141 people were treated, with 17 of those in critical condition and 25 in serious condition. Reports stated that at least 10 of the injured had limbs amputated.

An 8-year-old boy was among the dead.

“These were obviously bombs,” Rodrigues said. “Look at the stuff that’s happened overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq where half the buildings are missing (after explosions). Now I sit back and think if one of those types of bombs had gone off I’d be dead. It’s that kind of aftermath. I think how lucky we were to be inside.”

Rodrigues, 36, works for a marketing company. His professional hockey career included a stop in Johnstown, where he was a fan favorite because of his grit and willingness to stand up for his teammates.

Known better as “Roddy,” he wasn’t shy about displaying emotion on the ice or candidly speaking to the media after a game. Those traits surfaced Monday as Rodrigues talked about the terrifying events unfolding in his city.

“We were talking about what this will mean for the marathon. I said, ‘I bet next year that marathon is going to happen.’ Boston is a tough city,” Rodrigues said. “We have tough people here. Stuff like this, as bad as it is, I feel like this is the time people really step up. You’ll see that here.

“People here just get pissed off. People are sad but we don’t get scared that easily. I’m more angry than anything.”

Rodrigues did have a sense of gratitude toward the first responders and others who helped the victims in the moments after the explosions.

“It shows the kind of mettle that we have here in town,” Rodrigues said. “People weren’t running away. The people that were on the front line were running to help people. That’s a mentality.”

Still, it remained difficult to completely grasp why such a senseless act unfolded just more than four hours into the Marathon.

“I never thought it would ever happen here in Boston,” Rodrigues said, quickly adding an edginess familiar to Johnstown hockey fans. “I think they messed with the wrong city.”

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