BOSTON (AP) — Christopher Baldwin came to police headquarters Tuesday in hopes of recovering the cell phone he dropped in the chaos following the twin bombings at last week's Boston Marathon. Learning that the FBI likely had his phone, he tried to keep things in perspective.
"It's not that important, having my phone, really," the haggard-looking photographer from Cambridge said as he emerged from the processing room empty-handed. "I went a week without it, but there's a lot more people out there that are actually hurt, and my heart goes out to them."
Behind a pair of blue curtains in the department's media room, items wrapped in plastic and brown paper scrawled with numbers lay in a pile about 6 feet high: Wallets, purses, backpacks, cameras and baby strollers that were scooped up in the search for additional bombs, but have been cleared as non-evidentiary.
Mike Kincade came in search of his eyeglasses, phone and a coat. The 27-year-old Boston sales manager was sitting on the patio of the Charlesmark Hotel on Boylston Street when the first bomb went off.
"I really just kind of reacted, just got up and really just kind of paused for a second, just to see what was happening," said Kincade, who came dressed in a crimson Boston Red Sox jacket. "And then the second bomb went off. And at that point, everyone just kind of just scattered different places. It was kind of hysterical."
He was told the FBI had his stuff. The bureau has been processing items, particularly phones and cameras that might have usable images, and those may take longer to return.
Like Baldwin, Kincade was sanguine about the delay in getting his things back.
"You just react to it and thank God you're all right, and the worst thing that happened was that I lost some of my items," he said.
The Boston Police Department put out the call Monday for people to retrieve their belongings. The response was immediate.
"Even as recently as last night when this went out on the air, somebody brought in somebody else's purse that they had recovered and didn't know what do with," Sgt. Det. William Doogan of the BPD homicide unit, who is helping coordinate the effort to reunite people with their belongings.
For people who live in the greater Boston area, the department is offering to have detectives deliver items to their homes. For those who live farther out, the BPD is coordinating with other departments to return lost property.
"And if WE don't have it," Doogan said, "we can reach out to the FBI," which can arrange to return property that isn't evidence.
For those who witnessed the blasts, recovering their peace of mind might be a little more difficult.
Baldwin, who was taking photographs for a corporate client, was high on a scaffold overlooking the finish line. He was talking with his mother on the phone when the first of the two pressure-cooker bombs exploded.
"I was kind of in shock and I don't even know what happened to the phone, to be honest," he said. "Pretty much the worst thing was I couldn't communicate to my family and tell them that I was all right."
Kincade said recovering from the shock and recovering his property will both take time.
"It's just a process," he said.
"The first day was a little on edge, the adrenaline running," he said. "But after that, you know, you just begin to really think about what COULD have happened, and just kind of move on from there."
People looking for property lost at the marathon can send an e-mail to lostproperty.bpd(at)cityofboston.gov
Allen G. Breed is a national writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at features(at)ap.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/(hash)!/AllenGBreed