BOSTON — They came out in the gusting wind and the spitting rain to pay tribute on silent streets — to friends, to family and to people they didn't even know.
A year after two bombs killed three people and injured more than 260 others on the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Bostonians set aside Tuesday to think about that day last April, and to assure the world that they remain unbowed despite the difficult days and weeks that followed.
"We will never yield," said Vice President Joe Biden, the closing speaker at a tribute to the victims.
"America will never ever ever stand down," he told the audience, his voice rising. "We are Boston. We are America. And we respond. We endure. We own the finish line."
It was part of an invitation-only event — attended by more than 2,000 survivors, first responders and public figures — at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center just above the site of the bombings. Hundreds of other people gathered at the exact location of the attack, to stand for a moment of silence and recall those terrifying minutes last year.
They included Greg Soutiea, 30, who had just finished the marathon when the bombs went off. This year he was standing, in a blue and yellow marathon jacket, with a group of fellow runners, listening to the faint sound of bagpipes at the finish line. He had tried to go to work, he said, but found his mind was on Boylston Street and the struggles of the last year, so he left and headed toward the finish line.
"I wanted to be out here for the moment of silence," he said.
It's been a difficult 12 months for many who were at the finish line last year. Some are learning to live without friends or family members; others are learning to walk with artificial limbs, or to see with just one eye.
For Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who lost a leg in the bombing, walking into a non-handicapped bathroom stall for the first time was an accomplishment worth a victory dance. But it was the support of family, friends and Boston itself that helped her get to that point.
"It is difficult to believe it has only been a year," Haslet-Davis said in a speech at the tribute event. "It feels like only a few weeks, and we have a long road yet to walk. But the city has stood by us, supported us and helped us heal."
She was one of four survivors to speak at the ceremony. None of the families of those who died spoke, but each provided a small remembrance for the program for the event:
"A year has passed since you left us so suddenly. Time flies as people say, but the past year has been the longest and slowest for me and your mom," wrote the father of Boston University student Lu Lingzi, 23, one of the three killed by the bombings. Lu's father traveled from China to attend the event.
The ceremony included numerous thanks to the first responders, and it set aside time to remember the four people who died in the bombings and their aftermath. In addition to Lu, speakers remembered 8-year-old Martin Richard and Medford, Mass., native Krystle Campbell, 29, both victims of the blasts. Tribute also was paid to Sean Collier, the MIT police officer who authorities say was slain by the bombing suspects after the attack.
Firefighters from Engine 33 and Ladder 15, a firehouse just a few blocks from the site of the attack, were also mentioned; two firemen from the station were killed in a recent blaze.
Survivor Patrick Downes, who lost his left leg below the knee alongside his wife, Jessica, called those victims "our guardian angels."
"Let them hear us roar," he said. "Let's show them they live on in our bonds of family, friendship and community, and in the infectious spirit that we will feel on the third Monday of April for years to come."
The ceremony's many poignant moments included a speech by Liz Walker, a former local television journalist who is now a reverend, and a solemn solo performed by a member of the Boston Children's Chorus.
But it was former Mayor Thomas Menino, with his heavy Boston accent, who received the greatest welcome from the crowd. Menino, 71, who served as mayor for more than 20 years until retiring this year, said last month that he had been diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer that had spread to his liver and lymph nodes. He alluded to his health in his speech, promising to always remember what happened on April 15, 2013.
"We will stand with you and remember with you. We will never forget what this day means to you," he said. "Long after our own great races have finished, the people who follow us will remember you."
After the ceremony, officials headed to the marathon finish line on Boylston Street, where they raised a flag. The city observed a moment of silence, followed by the ringing of church bells.
Anne Marie Walker, who lives in Ireland, said she wanted to be at the finish line at 2:49 p.m. to remember the victims.
"It's important to be here, out of respect to what happened," she said.
Afterward, some people headed to memorial services at churches, others to candlelight vigils. And there were others who went for a run, last-minute preparation for this year's race, which is set for Monday. For them, crossing the finish line will be the final tribute to those who died last year, and to those who survived.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun