A Look Back: Stories from the Neighborhoods
By BU News Service Staff
BOSTON – Like 17,579 other finishers, Anatastia Voevodin ran triumphantly through the Back Bay on Monday at the 117th Boston Marathon. She completed the race just under 45 minutes before the first bomb exploded.
“When I got back to campus, I was confused about how to act. On one hand, I had just accomplished my dream. On the other, so many dreams had been taken away,” said Voevodin, a 20-year-old Boston University student. “I was faced with a battle between celebrating and mourning. I didn’t know how to be.”
Voevodin’s sentiments are what many in this city have voiced over the past week. Residents, students and officials from area communities shared memorable stories of this week amid the search for answers to the tragedy at the Boylston Street finish line when two bombs exploded just 12 seconds apart. BU News Service compiled the following accounts from Boston proper, Somerville, Cambridge, Brookline and Newton, local beats covered this semester by Boston University journalism students:
Just as the media reports emerged that an arrest had been made, a shopkeeper at Somerville’s Found, an upscale consignment store in Davis Square, caught the attention of shoppers on Wednesday afternoon. People sorting between the racks at all ends of the store quickly gathered at the front desk as one worker reacted to the call from a loved one. “They have someone!” she shouted, referring a potential arrest.
It was an eerie sense of excitement — and one felt by much of the nation — as store workers and shoppers alike thought the many unanswered questions of the past 48 hours could be resolved. The reports of a suspect in custody for Monday’s bombings were later confirmed as false, but for a moment there was a slight sense of relief in the belief that answers would soon follow. The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Thursday evening released photos of bombing two suspects.
Elsewhere in the Boston community, in the South End, a café worker from Petit Robert Bistro recalled how the restaurant stayed open on Monday, even after the bombings. Normally, he said, on Monday evenings the cafe would get 30 “covers,” or dinners served. But this Monday evening, he said, the restaurant had 250.
“It affected us good because people had to come this way to eat. My boss never closes,” said Frances Flores, who worked at the café on Marathon Monday and expressed his dismay at the bombings.
A Back Bay resident, David Lewit, 87, of Dartmouth St., typed at his computer at 2:50 p.m. on Monday when his feet vibrated from one, then two explosions half a block away at the marathon’s finish line.
Three days later, he said the streets look very different than they did that day. Now, curious Newbury St. shoppers and slow-moving security personnel have replaced the panicked hoards of runners and spectators Lewit saw sprinting beneath his window Monday afternoon.
Lewit walks by SWAT team members on his way to the grocery store. He said he chats with them while they stand around; his arms are full of groceries, but their hands are holding automatic weapons.
“They are very friendly, not stand-offish. They look like boys with toys,” Lewit said.
Regardless of the new visitors armed with guns and cameras surrounding Exeter Stret, Lewit said things are strangely like they were before any tragedy struck. “Nobody is weeping…[The only difference is] that I have to walk to Arlington to take the T,” Lewit said.
Kevin Bryce, 38, a Cambridge resident, said he had been watching the marathon right across the street from the first explosion on Monday.
“I woke up [Tuesday] thinking that it didn’t happen,” he said. “I thought it was all a dream.”
“The moment I realized it wasn’t [a dream], I couldn’t recall what I saw yesterday. It’s just a blur right now,” Bryce added. “I think I didn’t want to believe it happened.”
Even for those not in Copley Square on Monday, the bombings hit too close to home.
Lydia Siciliano, a runner, mother and resident of the North End, said she is still shock. “The marathon means so much to my family. My husband and I have both run the race many times and it is truly a spectacular event,” Siciliano said in an email. “My husband even proposed to me at the finish line just three years ago. We are typically there either running or cheering on the runners … I made a last-minute decision to not run this year and to run the Chicago Marathon instead. My husband and the baby would have been there [had she run].”
In Allston, a worker at City Sports on Commonwealth Ave., remembered Monday’s events.
“I realized something must be wrong but didn’t really understand the magnitude of what was happening,” said Marissa Chechette, 22, and a resident of Allston. She said she continued to work with few customers coming into the store for the rest of the evening.
“I started crying at one point and didn’t know why since I didn’t know anyone hurt. But I didn’t understand why someone would want to hurt the marathon. There’s no political motivation behind it or anything… and I kept thinking that it’s Boston. This kind of thing doesn’t happen in Boston,” Chechette said.
In nearby Brookline, the scene the day of the attack was far more tranquil than what occurred at the finish line.
“It was pretty orderly,” Chris Cronin, the chef at the Washington Square Tavern, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “There was no panic.” The restaurant sits on the corner of Washington Street and Beacon Street in Brookline, between miles 23 and 24 of the marathon route.
Cronin was at work on Monday afternoon, when the news of the bombing reached Brookline police in the Washington Square area. It had occurred just three miles away.
Brookline police asked the Washington Square Tavern, as well as several other restaurants and bars in the area, to close. A crowd was dining on the restaurant’s patio at the time, reveling in the buzz of New England’s most viewed sporting event. “We just told them we were closing,” Cronin said. “It was kind of voluntary to close down, but nobody really wanted to stay open.”
At Tuesday’s weekly selectmen’s meeting, Brookline Police Chief Daniel O’Leary commended local businesses’ cooperation when they were asked to close on a day when sales traditionally soar.
“They didn’t have to [close],” O’Leary said. “They did it at our suggestion, and it worked out best for everyone because it got people out of the area.”
Brookline police, firefighters and marathon officials were tasked with steering people away from Boston, O’Leary said. “Not only did we have the thousands and thousands of people on the route watching the marathon, but the Red Sox game was [letting out],” he said. “Boston police did not want the people to head toward the bomb zone.”
In the next town to the west, Newton, Mass., which hosts about seven miles of the marathon each year, Mayor Setti Warren addressed a crowd of several hundred residents Wednesday evening during a vigil at Newton City Hall’s War Memorial on Commonwealth Avenue.
“The citizens of Boston, to those who lost their lives, the victims, we stand with you. We stand with you,” Warren said.
“When the marathon was stopped and canceled,” Warren explained, “runners who were scared, were frightened found shelter in this War Memorial behind me.” The mayor said residents helped 50 to 60 runners by offering food, shelter compassion and rides to Boston, Hopkinton, where the marathon began, or elsewhere.
“That is what we stand for as a community. That is what we stand for as a country,” Warren said. He closed his remarks by saying: “We will move forward, and we will be better and stronger.”
Following Warren, newly elected Massachusetts State Congressman Joe Kennedy also addressed the Newton residents. He acknowledged the locals who helped marathon runners stranded at City Hall. Kennedy then joked that though people from the Boston area have the reputation for tough exteriors, they also have “the warmest hearts.”
Kennedy said in closing: “We have each other’s backs and we always will.”
This story was reported by Kelly Landrigan, Kiera Blessing, Drew Hartman, Lillian Miller, Julianne Lee, Emilia Capuzzi, Su Jeong Youk, Angelo Verzoni and Meredith Berg. It was compiled by BU journalism professor Meredith Berg.