A new memorial began to emerge Wednesday in a city already steeped in history – a tribute to the victims the Boston Marathon bombings.
As dozens of technicians in white coveralls continued to comb the streets for clues, runners, Bostonians and tourists alike sought a catharsis, finding themselves drawn to the crime scene: the streets near the finish line still blocked by metal police gates.
On the barricades, they hung T-shirts, rosary beads, letters and signs of support.
Monique Leonard of nearby Walpole, Mass., was one of the first, delivering a bouquet of flowers, along with an open letter to the perpetrators, noting that many of the runners had trained “their whole lives” for the prestigious race and that most of them “are a lost faster than you.”
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“No one knocks us off course,” a defiant Leonard said, pushing her 18-month-old son in a runner’s stroller. Ethan has participated in 5ks and 10ks with his mom, and Leonard predicted, “He’ll be back here, running.”
By early afternoon, the area by the gates was a too-familiar sight of American tragedy, as dozens left bouquets, teddy bears, racing medals, heart-shaped signs crafted by children and, this being Boston, a plethora of Red Sox baseball caps.
Anne Marder, 56, a Sacramento nurse who ran her fifth Boston Marathon on Monday, was about to catch a flight Wednesday but had one more task to complete. Unzipping her luggage, she removed a red Fleet Feet Sacramento racing team T-shirt and taped it to the barrier.
“It’s a show of support for the running community here from the other side of the country,” said Marder, who crossed the finish line just five minutes before the explosions. “We’re all in this together.”
All day, the crowd grew. Some stood silently, tears welling in their eyes as they gazed beyond the tributes to a phalanx of workers inspecting every inch of the street. A Tibetan monk offered a prayer.
Nearby, the union of New York-New Jersey’s Port Authority – which lost 37 officers in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – offered workers coffee and sandwiches.
Matt Sanders, 30, a Boston College law student, rode the marathon course the night before with nearly 1,500 other bicyclists, he said, thrilled to navigate the same 26.2 miles the runners would face the next day.
He crossed the finish line about 1 a.m. Monday. On Wednesday, he returned to reflect.
“I felt violated,” he said of the attacks. “This is the happiest day of the year in Boston, everyone’s out to have a good time, and that was taken away.”
Sanders, whose wife is a theology student, said he’s struggled with a way to handle the grief.
“We can’t be vengeful, but to return love for evil,” he said. “People say Boston’s tough, we’ll overcome it. We will, but we’re not going to set it aside for a while.”
Nathalie Rincon, 25, who works just blocks from the bomb site, and co-worker Mary Light stood on a corner near the vigil offering their own brand of relief. Their sign read, “Free Hugs.”
Rincon said she was moved to do something when she arrived at work Wednesday to sadness.
“There was no city noise, no bustle,” she said. “Hugs give a lot of energy and comfort.”
Jim Miller, whose restaurant, Fire + Ice, sits just down the block, was similarly inspired to act. He posted a banner over his restaurant that read, “Boston doesn’t blink. 2014 training starts today.” His goal is to double the number of runners in 2014.
“The killer in this thing is impotence,” said Miller. “People need a way to deal with this horror. If we can get double the number of people to run next year, that’s affirmation that people won’t be intimidated.”
President Barack Obama will take a message of resolve to Boston when he and first lady Michelle Obama travel here to speak Thursday at a vigil for the victims, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Boston,” Michelle Obama said Wednesday. “What happened on Monday was a reminder that in times of crisis, here in America we respond with grit and courage and determination.”