Valley woman witnessed Boston Marathon bombings from bleachers across the street

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX --  The horror of Monday's Boston marathon hasn't faded. It was fate that decided to give Valley resident Anne Hughes a front-row seat. That morning, her daughter Michelle, an Arizona State University student, was competing, and Hughes decided she'd wait at the finish line. A friend offered to give Hughes her VIP pass for a spot on the risers lining Boylston Street.

"I probably arrived at the bleachers around 11:30 or noon," she said.

Had she not had the pass, Hughes says she would have stood on the opposite side, with dozens of others who didn't know they were in danger.

"Really, in order to see the race I would have been on the other side of the street. I remember looking over there and thinking, boy they're like 10 to 15 people deep!" she said.

Three hours later, the first bomb exploded in the crush of people.

"I looked across and saw just a massive number of bodies," said Hughes. "You could hear glass shattering, screams and you could feel, it was one of those things, that concussive feel through your body."

Hughes and hundreds more cleared the bleachers, but she didn't have what she needed - her daughter, Michelle. She'd been tracking her time.

"It was horrible because I knew that she was close to where the second explosion was," Hughes said.

Hughes wandered through the chaos for 45 minutes. Michelle's phone was dead, but she was safe, thanks to the help of strangers.

"This text message came through from a phone I didn't recognize a number, and it said 'We have your daughter, she's safe, we took her in to our apartment. Here's the apartment address,'" she said. "I was so relieved."

In the following days, Michelle got her medal, and both women are finally getting some sleep. But in those moments in Boston, Hughes says they lost their sense of security.

"It's so terrifying that you can be at a Boston Marathon, something as innocent and joyous as that, and you're not safe," she said.