Just two days before, Hopkinton’s center bustled with activity: locals pitched tents on the town common, hosting barbecues and celebrating the start of this year’s Marathon and the changing of the seasons.
But on Wednesday, a day filled with rays of sunshine and clear blue skies, dark and gloomy expressions plagued the faces of nearly 100 people who gathered in the same small green space, located mere steps from the official Boston Marathon starting point, to remember and pray for the victims injured and killed in the explosions at the finish line of this year’s race.
The hourlong multifaith vigil was led by Rob Davis, pastor of the Vineyard Church of Hopkinton, who told the crowd that he had completed the 26.2-mile run shortly before the two bombs exploded. The blasts killed three people and injured more than 170.
Davis said that after he changed out of his sweaty running clothes Monday, he headed back to the finish line with another pastor from the church, Jeff Biggers, to wait for Biggers’s wife to complete her race, he told the crowd.
Then everything broke loose.
“I heard the bomb. I heard people screaming, hearing a crowd go hysterical, hearing people that are . . . ,” Davis paused. “I don’t want to give the graphics . . . I’m shook up. I’m still shook up.”
Davis, who said he still feels guilty and confused by the tragedy, asked for the crowd to pray for the individuals wounded or killed and their families; to pray for law enforcement and medical officials; and to pray for healing and moving forward.
Biggers, the pastor who was with Davis at the finish line when the explosions went off, took deep breaths in front of the crowd as he began his prayers for police and emergency responders.
“They didn’t run from tragedy, but into it,” Biggers said. “They put their own fear and safety aside to bring compassion to the suffering. Lord, give them peace. Give them sleep and rest at night, when all those images come back to them.”
In the crowd, some clasped their hands in front of them in prayer, while others held their arms out in front — palms up — to symbolize lifting the injured to the heavens.
Some cried, trying to downplay their tears behind sunglasses, while others held tissues to their faces.
At one point, many held hands. Bagpipes resonated through the air with the comforting melody of “Amazing Grace” before they segued into “America the Beautiful.” During the chorus, people began to chime in: “America! America! God shed His grace on thee.”
As the emotional vigil came to an end, Davis also asked people in the crowd to let go of their anger and rage.
“Hatred won’t help us with healing,” he said.
Also in Hopkinton on Wednesday, residents who had gathered around their television sets Monday to watch the news unfold said they had a tough time wrapping their minds around the situation.
Hopkinton police patrol officer and resident Tom Griffin said he had been patrolling the town early on Monday for the start of the Marathon.
Normally, after a Marathon, “the town is usually festive,” Griffin said. “You see a lot of cookouts and the weather’s usually good. It’s kind of like the first real day of summer.”
But this year was different.
“It started out that way, but it quickly turned somber,” he said. “Instead of festivities, you saw a lot of sadness and disbelief.”