For Many, Obama Visit is Start of Healing Journey

Boston Athletic Association volunteers Patryk Kornecki, 20, and Robert George, 21, were at the starting line in Hopkinton when the bombs went off. They said after a dark three days, they found President Obama's speech uplifting, marking a new chapter in Boston's history.


The two blasts that rocked the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon caused physical damage to Boylston Street and killed or injured hundreds of innocent people. News of the bombing traveled backward along the 26.2-mile course instantaneously, affecting every inch of the annual race.

Three days later in a new, high-security Boston, local dignitaries, political officials, families of the three people who were killed in the bombings, hundreds of Boston Athletic Association volunteers, Boston Police, fire and medical personnel and The First Family gathered at the Church of the Holy Cross for an interfaith service in Boston’s South End to pray for the victims and to attempt to close this dark chapter of the marathon’s 117 year history.

President Barack Obama stirred the solemn crowd with a speech that highlighted the display of strength of a close-knit city and especially the victims.

“Know this,” he said. “As you begin this long journey to recovery: your city is with you, your Commonwealth is with you, your country is with you, we will all be with you for when you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt: You will run again.”

Hopkinton volunteers find solace in president’s words

Monday, April 15 was as beautiful a race-day one could ask for. When the bombs went off at 2:49 p.m., the shockwave of information reached Hopkinton as fast as it takes to send a text message.

There stood Boston Athletic Association volunteers Patryk Kornecki and Robert George, sending runners off at the starting line on Main Street. When the bombs went off they’d already wrapped up their day’s work, but knew that pain and fear would lie ahead.

They were in attendance along with several volunteers wearing blue and white Boston Marathon jackets in a show of strength and solidarity, rising to simultaneously defy the bombers and be at the sides of the victims.

“The thing is…our whole society was down,” George, 21, said in an interview after the ceremony, “With President Obama giving such a moving speech it just uplifted the whole society.”

George said the show of support since Monday has filled him with a sense of pride for the running community and the people of Massachusetts.

“It gives a sense of pride, of devotion to the whole community to rise again, to forget about the tragedies…and look toward a better future,” he said.

Wellesley attendees drew strength from meaning of Patriots’ Day

Up the road, at mile marker 13.1 in Wellesley, Marathon Monday is nothing short of Mardi Gras. The Wellesley College women form the “scream tunnel,” where runners are cheered and offered kisses. People from everywhere camp out in Wellesley each Patriots’ Day because of its symbolic location and welcoming atmosphere.

State Rep. Alice Peisch, who represents Wellesley, Natick and a portion of Wayland, was in attendance Thursday. In an interview following the ceremony, she said Wellesley feels the pain as well.

“I think [we’re] responding the way the rest of the city is responding,” she said. “We have a very personal, emotional connection to the race in Wellesley. Every Patriots’ Day you go out and watch the Marathon. It’s never been anything but a happy occasion. I think everyone’s quite distressed by it, and that’s an understatement.”

First responders, spectators showed strength, Boston spirit at finish line

Just after the bombs went off, first responders went to work immediately helping those who had been hurt. The greater Boston community reached out on social media to help those who would be displaced.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who represents Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury and Roslindale, said in an interview following the ceremony Thursday that Obama’s speech was just what an ailing city needed to move on.

“This city is tough, it’s resilient. We’re strong,” he said. “We’ll come from this stronger and better than ever.”

O’Malley, a runner himself, reached out on Twitter to offer his home to those displaced by the bombings very shortly after word of an explosion reached the outlying community. He also was frantic, like so many others, searching for people he knew involved in the marathon.

He said his calm was nearly restored following Thursday’s ceremony.

“The President just said exactly what needed to be said and what we needed to hear,” he said.

As the 2,000 people streamed out of the Cathedral Thursday, proudly wearing the police, fire, EMT or volunteer uniform they were wearing Monday, it was as if they all took a collective sigh of relief.

One couple discussed where they would have lunch in the South End. A girl in a knee brace aided by law enforcement officers and security got into a cart, but she was smiling.

Kornecki, the volunteer stationed in Hopkinton Monday, said the speech to him has set off a period of “camaraderie and rebuilding” for Boston.

“I don’t think words can encapsulate what we felt,” he said, “but it was extremely moving, extremely uplifting and inspirational.” 

South End Patch