BOSTON — Hundreds gathered Tuesday afternoon for a public ceremony at the Boston Marathon finish line, held precisely one year after two pressure cooker bombs shattered the usual jubilance of Patriots’ Day.
Tuesday’s crowd, separated along the finish line’s borders, huddled together as rain battered Boylston Street, where only two large wreaths positioned near the curb signaled the disaster that happened here.
They claimed their viewing spots an hour before 2:49 p.m. — the designated moment of silence, mirroring the time of the first explosion — chatting in accents ranging from thick Bostonian to native German. They cheered as famed first responder Carlos Arredondo smiled from under his signature cowboy and sat front-row on the bleachers across from them, joining more first responders, survivors, family members and dignitaries honored at an earlier invite-only televised tribute. They sang “God Bless America” and fell silent as bells at the Old South Church solemnly rang.
“I had my head in a big box when it happened,” said Jenessa Carder, a four-time marathon volunteer who distributes food to runners after they finish the race. “Someone said it was a cannon. That didn’t seem right, but we just kept on handing out food. Runners are always so grateful, even for a banana.”
Then Carder saw the plume. She saw runners, who had just crossed the finish line, begin running again. She heard a second explosion.
On Tuesday, Carder wore last year’s yellow volunteer jacket to watch a flag raised at the site where the bombs killed three and injured more than 260. She said she didn’t think twice about signing up to volunteer again this year.
“Everyone can vividly remember that day,” she said. “It’s so important that we remember, but also continue making that day special.”
For Carder and other past participants — both runners and volunteers — Tuesday’s ceremony was an afterword to their existing memories of the tragedy. But for the many who didn’t attend last year’s marathon, it was about becoming part of the memory.
One wheelchair-bound man at the front of the Tuesday’s crowd left early, handing off a plastic-wrapped bouquet of flowers to two nearby college students. He didn’t identify himself, but told them to put the flowers somewhere special.
The students, Jennifer Blodgett and Tyler St. Jean, said they drove to Boston from Manchester, N.H., to be in “the city we love” for Tuesday’s anniversary. They drove down last year, too, to attend the emotional Bruins game held three days after the bombings.
“I remember crying my eyes out,” said Blodgett, then a high school senior.
“It’s still breathtaking and shocking, what happened,” St. Jean said. “But we knew we needed to be here today. The city has done their part, and we have to do ours.”
Kathy, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, also drove in from Foxborough, Mass., to be part of the ceremony. Though she worked in the John Hancock Tower for years, she said, she’s never attended the marathon — next week’s race the first one she sees up-close.
After a year of watching and reading stories of survivors, Kathy said she felt it was “important to be here.”
“I was working at home when the bombs went off,” she said. “I was scared for the city. I was angry. Then it was just sadness, all the time. I think it’s important now to have hope and share our hope.”