The Boston Marathon has always held special meaning for William B. Evans. The South Boston native has run the race 18 times, meaning it makes up nearly 40 percent of the marathons he has completed as a distance runner.
And the 2013 edition went off without a hitch for him, personally.
"I started in the first wave, finished in 3:34," he said. "Coming down the finish line, beautiful day. My wife, Terry, and my son, Will, were at the finish line, [I was] waving to them. I met them at Copley Square, we got in the car, I shot home -- shot them home, then I went down to the Boston Athletic Club, which is close to my home in South Boston."
Little did Evans know, but as he was starting to recuperate from his exertion, two bombs had ripped through crowd of spectators by the finish line on Boylston Street. The 26.2 miles he'd run was just the beginning for the then-Boston police superintendent.
"I was in the hot tub when officer Cecil Jones came in and told me two bombs went off," Evans said. "I didn't believe it -- I still really don't believe it, to this day."
But it would all become real in just a few minutes' time.
"I got out of the hot tub, hit the shower, shot home, got in my uniform, and I was probably at the scene within 15 minutes," he said. "And it's only then that I realize that, yeah, it's true. It happened here in the city. All the way there I was hoping it was just a transformer fire or explosion, 'cause we've had several up there that have caused blackouts within the last two years."
But hope as he might, Evans couldn't change the devastation awaiting him near the Old South Church. The wrecked windows. The toppled barriers and downed flags. The cement stained crimson.
A 31-year veteran of the BPD, as Superintendent Evans, he was the man responsible for putting together the security plan for special events like the marathon. So though it was hard to comprehend what he was seeing, there was nothing to do but get to work.
He met up with then-commissioner Ed Davis at the impromptu command post set up in the Westin Hotel. They created a game plan and then Evans hit the street to implement it, marshaling forces to set up a perimeter around a 20-block radius, to sweep the scene for secondary devices and to begin processing the evidence.
"And that's the way it continued for two or three days," he said. "It was basically locking down the area, securing the evidence and asking for the public's help on any cameras, any phones, anything that could've recorded what went down on Boylston Street. And so we did that until Thursday, when [President] Obama came to town, and that itself was a mission."
As superintendent, when the president came to Boston for an interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Washington Street in the South End, it fell to Evans and his team to secure the area.
"I remember getting up at 3:30 going for a run that morning, just so I could get my run in. That's the first time I actually got my run in," he said. "I was outside the cathedral at 4:30 that morning, making sure the media and the public, who were welcome, were setting up where we wanted them to, while preparing for Obama's visit. He and his wife came for an 11 o'clock Mass that morning, so that was quite an ordeal."
The way Evans figures it, he got maybe 10 hours of sleep in the four days that followed the marathon.
"I got up at 5 to run the marathon, next time I went to bed was 10 p.m. the next night. And all week we were running on empty, believe it or not," he said. "The day with Obama and his wife, they went to five different hospitals. We had to work on a plan to get him in and out [of each hospital]. I think I went home at 9 or 10 that night, only to be woken up after midnight when [the shootout in] Watertown was going on.
"I got out to Watertown after midnight, met up with my chief and commissioner, sort of helped secure that area. There were explosives, live explosives, still on scene. [We had to] process that whole scene. When I got there, there were holes in stop signs, there were guns on the street, there was a pressure cooker embedded in the side of a car, sort of, again, like the marathon scene, something you could never picture.
"At that point, the first suspect was already taken away in the ambulance, and Officer [Richard] Donohue, who was shot, was already taken away," he said. "The commissioner and the chief went off to the Watertown Mall, with all the other chiefs, and I stayed in Watertown running the scene along with the state police, who were processing that Dexter [Avenue] and Laurel [Street] scene, and we started evacuating houses, going from house to house to make sure they were secure, and evacuating also because we had live explosives. We called the MBTA, we put those people on buses. And then literally I stayed in Watertown on the ground all day.
"We were searching tip after tip with our tactical teams all day long. I never left there. About 5:30, Governor [Deval] Patrick lifted the stay in [shelter-in-place] order. But one of my captains, John Davin, was still out there. My guys were still out there searching, and again this was Watertown, not even our area. I said to John, 'John, how you doin'?' He said, 'Boss, give me 15 more minutes.' So I said, 'None of us are leavin' 'til we're done here.' Even after every other agency was basically heading home.
"Fifteen minutes goes by, I say 'John, what are we doing?' He says, 'I only got about two more blocks' -- because we were given areas to search. At that point a Watertown cop, I overheard him saying 'Hey, we just got a call for 67 Franklin Street.'"
The 911 call came after the homeowner noticed the tarp on his boat -- called Slip Away II -- was slightly awry and went out to check on it, only to find blood on the deck and a body lying against the far wall.
"My Ford Fusion, the black one, was right there," Evans said. "I hopped in the car with Lieutenant Bob Merner and Lieutenant Paul O'Connor and followed the Watertown cop down, 'cause we had no clue where 67 Franklin was, and we literally were the first ones on that boat.
"And we ran to the driveway and I could see we had someone in the boat. We could see him poking at the boat. So literally we were the first ones on that boat. And I took control of the scene. I was the incident commander throughout that whole thing. Shots rang out at one point when we had it, I'm the one -- if you listen to the radio -- screaming for everyone to hold their fire. I was able to get the scene under control. I didn't want anyone shot, cop-wise, but I also wanted that suspect to come out alive.
"We had so much information and knowledge to gain from him, that I wanted him to come out so we could find out his motives and how big this operation was," he said. "So working with the FBI hostage recovery team, they actually walked up to me and said, 'Are you the incident commander?' I said, 'Yes.' And every step they took they ran by me. They threw smoke grenades into the boat, they threw flash grenades into the boat. And finally the leader of the FBI HRT team, his name was Derek Bailey, said 'We're gonna start negotiating.' And they started to negotiate, and finally they were able to get him to sit up on the boat and they took him into custody.
"When you think of the week I had, from running the race to actually being the incident commander at the end, it was satisfying for me," he said. "It's sad, all the losses. We lost young Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lu Lingzi, and we also lost [MIT police officer Sean] Collier. It's sad. But for me, it was [also] gratifying. Because they attacked our city, they attacked our marathon -- which, the marathon is near and dear to me -- it was gratifying to be there at the end and be instrumental in the capture, and actually being the incident commander.
"There was no greater feeling in the world than when the HRT, the head of their team, came out and I said, 'Is that our guy?' And he said, '100 percent.' And then he said to me, and this is no lie and I've told this, he says to me, 'Superintendent,' -- which that's what I was at the time -- 'I've gotta ask you one more thing.' I said, 'What?' He said, 'In the interest of the United States of America, do you mind if we take this suspect into custody?' He was asking me if they could take the arrest, because he knew we were the first ones [on scene]. And I knew it was an FBI case anyway, but he had the courtesy to ask me, 'Do you mind if we take this?' And I said, 'It's all yours.'
"And then when we were leaving there, we were like heroes," he said. "It looks like we were in a battle, and the crowds were cheering us. I had goose bumps. Because I was so exhausted, we were all worn out, but it was the best feeling in the world seeing people clapping for us as we left Watertown. I was listening to the radio and hearing that hundreds of college kids were coming out of their dorms and heading for Boston Common. No better feeling after the emotional week we all went through."
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.