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Patrons praise restaurant staffers near blast site

BOSTON (AP) – They rushed toward the street with towels to help the wounded, and evacuated customers, including an infant and a toddler, by guiding people to the restaurant’s back staircase.

Some patrons of Forum, a Boylston Street restaurant near the twin bomb detonations at Monday’s Boston Marathon, are lauding the efforts of staffers they said kept calm after the afternoon devolved into chaos.

The restaurant had been hosting a race watching party that doubled as a fundraiser for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, a nonprofit that the former New England Patriots player started to raise money for cancer patients. Now it’s part of a crime scene.

Melinda Kearney, a 57-year-old schoolteacher from Kansas, was on the second floor with her family after watching her son-in-law finish running the race a bit earlier. She said it was the speaking tone of employees that got her group moving in the right direction.

“They had no panic in their voices,” she said Wednesday. “They were calm and assertive.”

Kearney had spent most of the day watching the race through an open upstairs window, an experience she called thrilling. Among those with her were her 2-year-old grandson and 3-month-old granddaughter.

“There was this constant noise of cheering,” she said. “And then you just realized there is silence. It’s like turning off the ocean.”

Kearney remembers first seeing a shot of something that looked orange. People were screaming, glass was on the floor, and no one knew if the second blast would be the last.

“I heard a man behind me say `I love you,’ and I thought, `He’s saying it to his wife.'”

Then a few restaurant workers approached the 20 or so people upstairs, walked them down a hallway and down a stairway that led to the street.

“The employees just said `Here, down the stairway,'” Kearney recalled.

Dustin Stock and his wife Kylie were also part of Kearney’s group.

The 33-year-old car dealer from Kansas said the building shook from the impact of the bombings and the first instinct was to flee. He said employees went above and beyond their duties by sticking around to help with the evacuation.

“They could have run like the rest of us, but they stayed there and showed us the way out,” Stock said Wednesday.

By pointing patrons to a back way out, Stock said they missed seeing some of the trauma that happened out front.

“The experience would have been worse. We would have seen things we couldn’t forget,” he said.

Suffolk University senior Ethan Long was on the business’ first floor by the bar when the devices exploded outside. Glass blew past the 22-year-old’s face, and he said that in the first panicked seconds, there was a yell to get down because it was thought someone had a gun.

The smell was as if someone had fired a musket right in front of him, said Long, who edits a weekly newspaper at his school.

He said before he escaped out the back, he saw employees bringing towels to the front to help the bloodied masses outside.

Later, Long saw a news photo of Andruzzi carrying a victim away from the scene.

“That’s a person you have to cherish,” he said of the ex-athlete and cancer survivor.

The Associated Press couldn’t reach the business’ owner for comment on Wednesday.

But a Tuesday posting on Forum’s Facebook page said images of horror and pain will be hard for employees to forget and some staff were among the injured. It also thanked emergency workers who tended to the victims, along with staff and guests who pitched in.

“We will prevail,” the Forum’s post said. “We love you Boston.”

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)