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Outside memorial service, Bostonians 'felt a need to come here'

April 18, 2013|By Alana Semuels and Andrew Tangel
  • A police dog sniffs near the crowd across the street from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross as President Obama and wife Michelle attend an interfaith prayer service to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings on Thursday in Boston.
A police dog sniffs near the crowd across the street from the Cathedral of… (Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images )

BOSTON--Boston University students Jackie Mahedy and Lily Rowland waited in line with so many others to get into the memorial service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. But like so many others, they were told the service was full.

Even so, hundreds continued to fill the streets surrounding the cathedral to show support and solidarity after Monday's bombings near the marathon's finish line. Others streamed into the area's bars and restaurants to watch on TV.

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Mahedy and Rowland, both 19, went to a restaurant inside the nearby Marriott hotel. Both women were somber but resolved. 

"We both felt a need to come here -- this town has become our home,” said Mahedy, who is originally from New Jersey.

They also had attended a vigil at the university and said that “Boston Strong” has become a catchphrase after the tragedy, with students repeating the phrase to each other. The words are even emblazoned on T-shirts being sold on campus.

“Boston pride is still strong,” said Rowland, who is from Vermont.

FULL COVERAGE: Boston Marathon attack

On Monday, Mehedy and Rowland had been watching the marathon from the sidewalk near the blast site, and both told of receiving an outpouring of support from friends and relatives from around the country.

“This past week has been crazy,” Mahedy said.

At BoMA, a bar across from the cathedral, the crowd erupted in applause when President Obama walked up to the lectern. And they cheered even louder when he declared the attackers "picked the wrong city."

Patrick Mongeau, 28, of Cambridge, likened the service to a funeral: It's providing some closure and helping everyone move on.

"You feel better after a funeral," he said.

But the service was also providing a morale boost, reinforcing the city's resolve and solidarity. If social chaos was a goal of the attackers, that didn't work, he said.

"What they tried to do failed," he said.

Marlene Alderman, a librarian at Boston University, was watching the service at a Starbucks in the Marriott, her hand on her heart.

“To have this happen here, it just breaks our heart,” she said.

Alderman, 62, from Arlington, said she felt a connection to everyone affected by the bombing, including Krystle Campbell, who lived for a time in Arlington, and Lu Lingzi, who attended Boston University.

“We all feel connected, it’s very sad," she said. "I wanted to come out with people and be a part of the community.”

“It was so nice for the president to come.”

Many of the hotel’s large-screen TVs were tuned to the service, though, in true Boston spirit, a few channels still showed sports programming.

While people watched the service, others went on with their daily routines, holding business meetings and talking with friends. Normality is still a ways off, though: A SWAT team truck still sits outside the Marriott and many other hotels are guarded by soldiers with semiautomatic weapons. Streets nearby are still closed and manned by police officers in yellow jackets.

Still, spectators outside the cathedral expressed defiance.

"This is Boston and we're strong," said Kevin Brown, a 59-year-old carpenter from Brockton, Mass., who wrote "God Bless Boston" on his white T-shirt. "I wouldn't miss it."

 "There's nobody here talking about being scared," he said. "Life goes on."


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