BOSTON — Thousands gathered in a Boston convention center Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings.
“Next week, we will run again,” said Tom Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association. “But on this day, in this place, in remembrance and resolve, we gather as citizens of Boston, Boston strong.”
One year ago, “the very fabric of this community was tested to its core,” he said, but the city “inspired.”
“You are strong at this broken place,” former Mayor Tom Menino told the crowd, adding, “the heartbeat of Boston is a mighty force.”
To those who lost loved ones and to the many who were wounded, Menino said, “whatever you have to do to recover and carry on, know that the people of Boston and I will be right there by your side.”
Menino was mayor at the time of the attack.
On April 15, 2013, the Patriots’ Day bombings killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and wounded at least 264 others. The city then underwent days of fear as the two identified suspects, the Tsarnaev brothers, were on the run. Police say they killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer in the process, and then Tamerlan Tsarnaev was run over by his younger brother, Dzhokhar, as they battled police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts and is scheduled to go on trial in November.
“A year ago, tragedy struck at the 117th Boston Marathon,” President Obama said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “Four innocent people were killed that week, and hundreds more were wounded. Today, we remember Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Martin Richard, and Sean Collier. And we send our thoughts and prayers to those still struggling to recover.”
The world-renowned Boston Pops orchestra performed, including a rendition of “America the Beautiful” with singer Renese King. The Boston Children’s Chorus performed as well.
Among the speakers at the event will be Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.
Patrick Downes was a newlywed at the time of the attack. He and his wife, Jessica Kensky, each lost a leg.
“We would never wish the devastation and pain we have experienced on any of you,” Downes said in the event at the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. “However, we do wish that all of you, at some point in your lives, feel as loved as we have felt this last year. It has been the most humbling experience of our lives. We hope you feel all the emotion we feel when we say ‘thank you.’ “
He referred to the four people killed as “guardian angels.”
“Let’s show them they live in in our bonds of family, friendship and community and in the infectious spirit we will feel on the third Monday in April for years to come.” That’s the date of the marathon — which, this year, takes place next week.
Survivors David Yepez, a teenager, and his father David, spoke as well, thanking first responders, as did Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dancer who lost her left foot in the attack.
After the ceremony, at 2:49 p.m. ET, the city will hold a moment of silence, followed by church bells tolling and a flag-raising ceremony.
A year after the bombings, families of the victims are struggling to come to terms with the loss.
“She had that special, I don’t know what it is, that special thing about her,” said Lillian Campbell, grandmother of bombing victim Krystle Campbell, 29. “And you felt happy around her because she was always laughing and bubbly. I loved her.”
Some victims injured in the attack are showing their perseverance by planning to take part in this year’s marathon, scheduled for Monday — even victims who suffered severe injuries.
“Last year, I was on the ground at the finish line. This year, I’ll be running across it,” said Kevin White. “It kind of proves to people that evil isn’t going to win.” White, then 34, had shrapnel through his legs a year ago. His 71-year-old father, Bill, lost a leg.
Authorities have announced extensive security plans for this year’s marathon, which is expected to bring in $176 million for the Boston area’s economy.
Brothers Paul and J.P. Norden each lost a leg in the attack last year. On Tuesday, they began a trek: walking the entire 26.2-mile marathon route, along with family and good friends. “I feel so blessed,” their mother, Liz, said in a Facebook post, adding that she couldn’t be prouder.