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Boston Stronger: City Marks One Year Since Marathon Bombings [Updated]
Originally published on Tue April 15, 2014 3:56 pm
On this April 15, Americans are thinking about the Boston Marathon bombings that occurred one year ago.
In and around Boston, people are also looking back on a year of healing. The day's events culminated in a moment of silence at 2:49 p.m. ET, the time of the first explosion. Vice President Joe Biden joined other officials in a tribute near the race's finish line.
A large crowd formed along Boylston Street, the scene of the cruel attack that police say was carried out by two brothers. One was later killed, and the other awaits trial. On Monday, 200 people affected by the bombings gathered on the finish line for a mass portrait by The Boston Globe.
Today's memorial program began at noon, with Biden attending a service along with Gov. Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and former Mayor Thomas Menino at the Hynes Convention Center.
We'll feature tributes and remembrances here today, updating this post as events progress. And you can follow it at member station WBUR in Boston.
Update at 3:30 p.m. ET: More From Survivors
Because no one has the perspective and experience they have, we'll close out this post with more words from people who were in Boston last year – and who have come back this year:
"I am going to finish the marathon with the woman who found me on the ground last year at Forum," Heather Abbott says on Boston's WBUR. "She's running it for the first time. The BAA's going to let me jump in in the last half mile and finish it with her."
"There's definitely some fear of going back," Carol Downing says on today's All Things Considered. "I know that for the whole time of the 26.2 miles, I'm going to be wondering if my family is safe."
"There were running sneakers, posters, banners, hats and ribbons with touching words and then a chance to add to the exhibit.... It was here that I found the majority of the high school students silent and focused on writing meaningful messages to leave behind. This was exceptionally touching," Nelson says. "At the Boston Public Library they have created a truly exceptional display of the hope, love, strength and resilience this city embodies."
Nelson, a nurse who worked as a volunteer at the finish line of the 2013 race, will run her first marathon next week.
Update at 2:49 p.m. ET: Moment Of Silence
The bell of the historic Old South Church chimes as a U.S. flag is attached to a flagpole and raised on Boylston Street. Afterwards, the national anthem is sung; in the crowd, many people's hands go to their chests. Police officers and others salute.
Vice President Biden, Gov. Duval Patrick are among the officials standing with victims, their families and first responders on the asphalt in the center of the street. Like seemingly everyone in attendance, their heads were bowed for the moment of silence that came at 2:49.
Earlier, bagpipes played as police officers led the families of victims out onto the street. The ceremony took place during a break in the heavy rain and wind that forecasters predict for Boston today.
Update at 2:38 p.m. ET: Flag-Raising Ceremony Set To Begin
People are gathering on the portion of Boylston Street where a U.S. flag will be raised near the Boston Marathon's finishing line. The sidewalks are a sea of wet umbrellas.
Near the ceremony site, fire and police officers are standing in the open, holding U.S. and other flags.
Update at 2:05 p.m. ET: Memorial Is Over; Events Move Outdoors
The program of speakers and music ended after the vice president's speech. A flag-raising ceremony and a moment of silence are up next. Boston's weather forecasters say winds are gusting at over 50 mph and heavy rain is falling this afternoon.
Update at 1:49 p.m. ET: 'We Own The Finish Line,' Biden Says
"You're living proof that America can never, never, never be defeated," Vice President Joe Biden tells survivors of the bombings and the city that rallied around them.
Biden says that last year's attack was an attempt to instill fear into people in Boston and into America, to try to change their core values.
"You are Boston Strong," he said. "But America is strong. They're not unlike you – all around America. That's what makes us so proud of this city, and this state. It's that we have never, ever yielded to fear – ever."
He went on to talk about the sacrifices made by police, firefighters and other first responders. And he spoke about Carlos Arredondo, who last April wore a cowboy hat as he helped carry a severely wounded Jeff Bauman.
Ending his speech, Biden said, "We endure. We overcome.. And we own the finish line."
Update at 1:28 p.m. ET: Survivors Speak Out
In heartfelt speeches, survivors of last year's attack – Adrianne Haslet-Davis, 15-year-old David Yepez (and his father, also David), and Patrick Downes spoke to the crowd at the convention center about strength and determination — and gratitude for the help they've received.
Haslet-Davis, a dancer who lost a leg in the attack, said, "Our survivor community is not something any of us has chosen to be a part of," reports WBUR. "But there are many moments we could have not made it through if not for one another."
Downes told the crowd, "We hope you feel all the emotion we feel when we say thank you."
Their speeches also included a lighter moment, as Haslet-Davis spoke of the importance of small milestones in recovery and healing.
"Even walking into a non-handicapped bathroom stall for the first time, doing a happy dance. It's the little things," she said.
Update at 12:45 p.m. ET: Rousing Ovation For Menino
The sight of longtime Boston Mayor Thomas Menino walking to the podium prompts a standing ovation from the thousands present. He left office in January.
"This day will always be hard," Menino says. "It'll never be easy to gather at that finishing line."
He then spoke about how the day offered a chance to share gratitude with the responders and doctors who helped that day.
Citing Ernest Hemingway's quote that "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places," Menino tells those present, "You are strong at this broken place."
Update at 12:30 p.m. ET: Ceremony Begins With Music And Speeches
The midday ceremony has begun, with performances by the Boston Pops ("Hymn to New England") and other musicians, from singer Renese King ("America the Beautiful") to the Boston Children's Chorus ("Up to the Mountain").
The event is being held inside, which may be a great thing: Rain is in the forecast in Boston this afternoon.
Update at 10:30 a.m. ET: Brothers Who Lost Legs Walk Toward Boston
Paul and J.P. Norden each lost a leg in last year's attack. That's not stopping the two brothers from walking to Boston today — local TV WCVB reports that they are setting out this morning from the race's starting point in Hopkinton, Mass. They admit they might not make the entire 26.2-mile trip — but that's not the point, they say.
"We had so much support from everybody," J.P. says. "At one point it was the worst year of our life, and sometimes it was the best year of our life."
"There's no way we would've ever thought we'd be walking this today," Paul says. "I never would have thought I was walking, after what happened last year."
Asked what's next for them, J.P. answered, "We gotta get through this 26-point-something miles first," bringing laughs from his brother and the reporters.
As The New York Times reports, at last year's race the brothers were "both strapping construction workers in their prime who were there to cheer on a friend."
Our original post continues:
"I'm really excited because I love being with the other survivors," attack survivor Jeff Bauman tells USA Today of today's events. "I hope there's a lot of first responders there. I want to say thank you to everybody."
Three people were killed a year ago: Krystle Campbell (29), Martin Richard (8), and Lu Lingzi (23). Police officer Sean Collier died days later as authorities pursued the suspects. Hundreds more were injured, some severely.
Lingzi's parents, Jun Lu and Ling Meng, will be at today's ceremony, having traveled thousands of miles from China to be in Boston.
"We cherish everything that Lingzi was a part of," Jun Lu tells The Boston Globe through an interpreter. "Even though last year's marathon [was tragic], we want to be there to witness something good come out of it."
Victims and their families, including Martin Richard's brother and little sister, attended a wreath-laying ceremony this morning, as Gov. Patrick and other officials joined with police and fire department officers to commemorate them.
And in Newton, Mass., which was under a partial lockdown one year ago, police tweeted a defiant message, saying the city had gone "from Boston Strong to Boston Stronger!"
Eight runners who are entered in the 2014 Boston Marathon have been documenting their training and personal stories for NPR in a Tumblr blog. Some of them ran in last year's race; others were inspired to enter this year's race to honor the victims. Running the race this year also brings a chance for healing and closure.
NPR's Wright Bryan recently spoke to one of those runners — Demi Clark, who was among the last group to finish last year's race before homemade bombs wreaked havoc in Boston.
Clark now lives in Charleston, S.C., a move she says was brought on by a new willingness to change.
As Clark recently wrote, "That has been a theme this year. I don't allow myself to say 'no' to things that are potential 'no second chances.' I hug my children tighter at bedtime (and I don't miss a chance to tuck them in — EVER — something I used to do)."
Member station WBUR in Boston describes what happens after today's tributes:
"From there, the city and race organizers must turn their attention to Monday, when a million spectators are expected to line the 26.2 mile course from Hopkinton to Boston to cheer on the second-largest field of runners in the race's 118-year history."