Boston Remembers, One Year Later

boston3One year ago — on April 15, 2013 — the two pressure-cooker booms that exploded at Boston’s annual marathon left three dead, including an eight-year old boy, and injured hundreds.

In the days and weeks that followed the tragedy, it was not so much the pursuit of the suspects that that made the Boston bombings stay on the forefront to the nation’s collective consciousness — although the unprecedented manhunt that resulted in the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the capture of his brother Dzhokhar, who has pleaded not guilty to 30 charges, was undoubtedly gripping. Rather, it was the great strength with which the city handled the tragedy that drew the attention of the world. In a statement released Tuesday by the White House, President Barack Obama succinctly captured that truth. “We also know that the most vivid images from that day were not of smoke and chaos, but of compassion, kindness and strength: A man in a cowboy hat helping a wounded stranger out of harm’s way; runners embracing loved ones, and each other; an EMT carrying a spectator to safety,” he said. “Today, we recognize the incredible courage and leadership of so many Bostonians in the wake of unspeakable tragedy.  And we offer our deepest gratitude to the courageous firefighters, police officers, medical professionals, runners and spectators who, in an instant, displayed the spirit Boston was built on – perseverance, freedom and love.”

Several events scattered across the day were organized as a tribute to both those who lost their lives or were injured in the explosions.

Boston’s recovery was the story — and it continues to be the story — of a diverse population coming together to heal. Boston is a city of immigrants; it is a city of students; and the destruction that took place along Boylston Street, where the two bombs exploded several hundred yards apart, was felt the world over by those that have one time or another called Boston home. The tens of thousands of students who have graduate from Boston-area colleges and universities “means that there are millions of men and women wandering around America today who spent some of the best years of their lives in and around Boston, walking some of the very streets splattered with blood yesterday in the wake of the Marathon bombings,” wrote The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen the day after the tragedy. It means the tragedy was felt far and wide.

But it was not the destruction the two bombs wrought that dominated Tuesday’s memorial. Both victims and civic leaders instead chose to reflect upon the spirit of the city, a city whose citizens made “Boston Strong” the hallmark of their resilience. And, while the resilience with which the city recovered and began its renewal is remarkable, it is only a small reflection of strength exhibited by those injured one year ago and those who lost a loved one. Such a tragic event — and the fear and anger that follows — can forever change a city, but Boston overcame.

“In the year since two bombs exploded in the midst of the Boston Marathon, killing three spectators and altering the lives of dozens of others, Boston has learned much about itself. Like an individual confronting the death of a loved one or some other calamity, the city was set forth on an uncharted landscape of grief and renewal,” noted the Boston Globe’s editorial board on Tuesday. “The pain was not divided equally; the families of Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, and Krystle Campbell were left with a void that can never be filled. For many of the injured, the struggle continues, and the pain of adjustment will linger even after the physical misery has abated. And there were the many medical and public-safety officers — one of whom, MIT police officer Sean Collier, lost his life — to whom all Bostonians owe a debt of gratitude.”

At exactly 2:49 p.m. on Tuesday, the city Boston observed a moment of silence in remembrance of the minute when the first bomb exploded one year ago at the finish line of the city’s iconic marathon; during those seconds, only the patter of raindrops on umbrellas could be heard. Then church bells tolled; the American flag was raised; and, survivors took to the podium to share their remembrances. Many of those who spoke survived great personal injury; more than one entered the auditorium on prosthetic limbs. Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dancer who lost her left foot in the attack, told the 2,000 in attendance to think of the day as one of action. “Let April 15 be a day when we all work together to make this world a better place,” she said.

 

It was a somber beginning to the tribute. But while “this day will always be hard,” as Thomas Menino, who served as Mayor of Boston for twenty years until he stepped down this January, said in his trademark Boston accent. “This place will always be strong.” Menino was hospitalized during the bombing, but checked himself out to rouse the city of Boston. “I want you to hear the solemn promise,” he told the bombing survivors. “When the lights have dimmed and the cameras go away, know that my support and love for you will never waver. Whatever you have to do recovery and carry on, know that the people of Boston and I will be right there by your side.”

Earlier Tuesday morning, the families of those killed gathered together in a wreath-laying ceremony. And, in the program distributed at the tribute, short eulogies of Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, Krystle Campbell, and Sean Collier were printed. “A year has passed since you left us so suddenly. Time flies, as people say, but the past year has been the longest and slowest for me and your mom,” read the piece authored by Lingzi Lu’s father, who traveled from China to attend the memorial.

“You will send a resounding message around the world. Not just the rest of world but the terrorists,” Vice President Joe Biden said, in his own tribute. “That we will never yield, we will never cower. America will never, ever, ever stand down .We are Boston. We are America. We respond. We endure. We overcome … and we own the finish line.”

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