BOSTON — It seemed like any other spring day in downtown Boston. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and crowds were out on Boylston Street. But as people approached the Marathon Sports storefront Wednesday afternoon, footsteps slowed and voices lowered.
For the first time since the Boston Marathon bombing, people were able to walk down Boylston Street and past the sites of the two blasts.
A crowd gathered in a half circle on the sidewalk, encircling the Marathon Sports storefront and about a dozen orange cones that stood protecting newly poured concrete where the first pressure-cooker bomb exploded.
Many stood in silence or whispering to friends. Many took pictures of the Marathon Sports store window, papered with a massive sign that read “Boston Strong” and promised it would reopen soon. Workers laid down new tile inside the store, which immediately after the bombings became an impromptu triage unit.
Most came specifically to see the site for the first time, to mark and honor the three who died and more than 260 who were injured. Several wiped tears from their eyes. One woman, dressed in running shorts and a tank top, knelt down alongside the orange cones, buried her face in her hands and wept.
“[I] don’t want to forget yet about the victims and all those that were injured, even though the street is open, it’s still not quite back to normal. You know, keep them in our thoughts for a little bit longer,” said Lisa Watt-Bucci, who came to Boylston with her wife, Hope. Both work for John Hancock, which sponsors the Boston Marathon. They were at work last Monday, heard the blasts and felt the building shake.
“We walk this street every day and we just needed just to feel it, and see it,” Watt-Bucchi said.
Her wife agreed. ”Being at the site where it occurred … remembering the people that were here and the conflict that they had,” she said.
Barbara Leskowitz drove in from Leominster to visit the former crime scene. She said she usually comes to Boston to watch the marathon but could not make it last Monday. She stood silently next to the orange cones, reflecting with her hands folded.
“All the families that are involved and all the pain” filled her thoughts, she said. “I have two children of my own and I just, I think about all these people who lost their limbs and everything, it’s just devastating.”
Boston Marathon Bombings: Significant Developments
- Monday, April 15: Bombs at the Marathon finish line kill three and injure hundreds more
- Thursday, April 18: Black hat and white hat: FBI releases photos and video of suspects
- Thursday and Friday, April 18-19: MIT police officer is killed; shootout in Watertown; one suspect dies, other escapes
- Friday April 19: Manhunt for surviving suspect as Boston area is put on lockdown
- Friday evening, April 19: Lockdown lifted; suspect is located and captured in Watertown
- Monday, April 22: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev charged with using a weapon of mass destruction
- Wednesday, May 1: Three college friends of Dzhokhar accused of disposing of backpack
Steve Walker stood next to his son, a young boy with several stitches on his head. They came from Florida so his son could have surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital two weeks ago. They met some of the victims of the attacks and their families who were treated at Children’s, which made it even more important, Walker said, to bring his family down to Boylston.
“Just to remember the people who were hurt and the ones that lost lives. [It's] about an honor to them and for my kids to remember this so they understand the history of it and what it means,” Walker said.
For many, it was surreal to actually see the sidewalk and storefronts that had been consuming their thoughts for the past week and a half.
“It still just doesn’t feel like it could have really happened,” said Liz Cecchini, of Somerville. “I’m shocked. But I also feel proud of how it was handled and sad for what has transpired. It’s bittersweet.”
Blythe Davis stood in the street, halfway on his bike. He rode into the city from Somerville for the first time since the blasts.
“I had been hesitant to come back and I thought it’d feel better coming back when it’s all opened up again,” Davis said, explaining that he didn’t want to see the street when the barricades were up and police were still out searching for evidence.
Davis, a flight attendant for American Airlines, had friends on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. “So it brought back a lot of memories that I just didn’t want to revisit,” he said.
But being in front of the store did not make him feel better.
“I don’t think doing anything like this is going to change what happened for me,” Davis said. “It’s going to change the world we live in, but I don’t think it’s going to make me feel better or feel worse. It is what it is.”
Steve Walker said visiting the site did make him feel better. ”I think the ones that survived, I think the arrest of the suspect, [it all] gives you some closure. Gives, hopefully, the family some closure,” he said.
Not so for Cecchini.
“Better? I don’t know. I’m a little sadder, I think.”