Gabriel Gomez crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon just minutes before two explosions turned what was a celebratory moment into a scene of horror.
Like many runners in the 26.2-mile race, Gomez had his family on hand to watch him at the finish line. His wife and four children, ages 13, 11, 10 and 8, were about a block or two before the finish line.
"I knew they were going to be there so I slowed down, gave them a hug and kiss and gave high fives to them and a bunch of family friends from our town that were there to watch the end and then I crossed the finish line, and within minutes I heard the explosions, saw the smoke," Gomez told CNN.
Gomez is one of the five candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by John Kerry when he became secretary of state. He planned to hold a news conference after he finished the race.
But his primary concern after the explosions became finding his loved ones.
"My first reaction was to try and get ahold of her (his wife), but there was no cell coverage there so it took a half an hour to figure out what had happened, where they were."
"I can't even compare it to anything I've ever felt in my life," Gomez added. "You see your family at the end and then you are dark for half an hour after you see these bombs go off. And you've got four kids that are as innocent as everyone else's kids are and you have no way to communicate."
Gomez, who spent nine years in the Navy as a pilot and then a Navy SEAL, said he realized immediately that the explosions were extremely serious.
"I'd heard that kind of bomb go off before in my life, so I knew something serious had just happened."
The Democratic and Republican primaries are just two weeks away but the campaign trail has gone quiet in Massachusetts.
Gomez, a businessman, as well as fellow Republican candidates Daniel Winslow, a state lawmaker, and former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, and the two Democratic candidates, congressmen Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch, immediately suspended all campaigning following the bombings.
Sullivan, who served as the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives during President George W. Bush's second term, discussed the investigation on CNN's "Starting Point" Tuesday morning but specifically requested not to talk about his campaign, in another sign that politics are temporarily suspended.
One of the three killed in the bombings was an 8-year-old boy from Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, the same age as Gomez's youngest child. The candidate and his wife spent Monday evening trying to explain the senselessness of terror attack to their four children.
"We spent last night talking to our kids about how there's a lot of evil out there but thank God there's more good than evil and there's good people and we're going to find those behind the bombings and they're going to pay."