Bostonians gathered at a makeshift memorial on Monday to remember the victims of last week’s devastating marathon bombings — some seeking comfort, others looking to honor the dead.
At 2:50 pm (1850 GMT), church bells rang out across the city as hundreds of people stood silently at the end of a security cordon set up near the blast sites at the marathon finish line on Boylston Street to pay their respects.
“We began last Tuesday with three American flags and then people have kept on bringing flowers, stuffed animals — all kinds of stuff,” said Kevin Brown, who has helped maintain the memorial at Boylston and Berkeley Streets.
“A woman gave her running shoes a couple of hours ago and left barefoot,” said Brown, an elderly Bostonian in a baseball cap.
Among the flowers, written prayers and words of support stand three white crosses, in memory of the dead — eight-year-old boy Martin Richard; Chinese graduate student Lu Lingzi and restaurant manager Krystle Campbell.
Brown explains that the crosses were brought by a man who said he had driven all the way from the western state of Colorado.
“I am really moved by all the solidarity coming from all around the world and it help me recovering,” he said.
Sharon Field, a volunteer therapist for the Red Cross, says impromptu public memorials are “part of the process of healing.”
“There is a full range of emotions for people coming down here to the memorial — it is a time for contemplation,” Field said. “We are here to be available for people who want to talk, to chat.”
Field has been working at the site for two days, offering soothing words of encouragement, and handing out leaflets to parents seeking advice on how to explain the bombings, which also left 200 people wounded, to their children.
“I am not doing therapy on the curb. I am just giving them some words of support, make sure that they maintain their routine, take care of their health, eat well, stay hydrated,” she said.
Field also encourages people not to be afraid to seek professional help if needed to get through the trauma, which also included a day-long lockdown of the city while police hunted bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.
Tom Davis came to the site with his trusty golden retriever. He is a volunteer for Therapy Dogs International, which includes more than 600 canines across the country trained to help the victims of .
Tourists but also local residents petted the dog, smiling.
“These dogs make them feel good. You can see people coming up, they are smiling, sometimes they cry, but it is part of the stress relief,” he explained.
Nearly every day since the tragedy, teacher John Abbott — who abandoned the marathon before finishing — has come to the corner of Boylston and Berkeley.
“I am here for a friend seriously injured and for all the victims,” he told AFP.
“Boston on the surface is a very cold city, but when you get below the surface, this is what you get. People are all business here so it is impressive to see people stop for a minute and show what they really feel.”
Along the police barricades used to seal off a six-block area near the blast sites, Alexis Tubens appears to be chatting with her white parrot. A young woman walks by and strokes the bird’s head.
“I am here to pay a tribute to the people who died and to help the living to get their smile back — everything I can do to put a smile on people’s faces,” Tubens said.