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At race’s starting point, Hopkinton grapples with horrific finish

In Hopkinton, people held hands in a vigil near the Boston Marathon starting line Wednesday.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

In Hopkinton, people held hands in a vigil near the Boston Marathon starting line Wednesday.

On Monday morning, Hopkinton bustled with anticipation as the starting point for the 117th Boston Marathon. Twenty-four hours later, the picturesque town tried to comprehend the horrific bombings that killed and maimed people at the finish line.

“We’re the start of the marathon,” said David Phillips, owner of Hopkinton Gourmet, a short walk from the starting line. “It will never be the same again.”

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All along the 26.2-mile route -- through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and into Boston -- people reacted with a mix of shock, sadness, and defiance.

Alan Biggers, 14, embraced Ryan Lynch during a vigil for the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Alan Biggers, 14, embraced Ryan Lynch during a vigil for the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton.

“My feeling is this is making everybody feel more bonded together,” said Brielle Chabot, general manager of Heartbreak Hill Running Company in Newton. “I think a lot of the reactions is, ‘We’re still going to run. This isn’t going to stop us from running the Boston Marathon.’”

In Hopkinton, Phillips was serving up bagels and coffee Tuesday to a mix of runners and residents. He had music playing on the television rather than the usual news because, he said, he thought people needed a break.

But the tragedy wasn’t far from the minds of Jackie and Greg Pavek, who were having coffee near a window looking out onto Main Street. Both were wrestling with what they experienced at the finish line in Boston when the explosions occurred.

A banner in Hopkinton with a message of support for victims of the finish line bombings.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

A banner in Hopkinton with a message of support for victims of the finish line bombings.

When the bombings took place Monday afternoon, Greg Pavek, 65, had cleared mile 26 and was running the final stretch of his sixth Boston Marathon, and his wife Jackie was sitting in the VIP stands cheering him on.

The couple, who drove from Wisconsin for the event, couldn’t find each other in the chaos, and each knew the other was in harm’s way.

“We’ve been married 44 years. I thought this is not going to be it,” said Jackie Pavek, eyes filling with tears as she talked about the uncertainty of her husband’s fate.

When he should have been crossing the finish line, Pavek was instead witnessing devastating injuries: a woman with a severed leg and people’s bodies splayed on the ground at odd angles like “rag dolls,” he said. He never got to the finish line.

Pavek was stationed at Fort Devens in 1968, when the couple got married, so the marathon has always been a nice way to reminisce, he said, but that’s changed now. He’s not sure he will come back and his wife said she didn’t think she could.

“I have a different feeling right now about the marathon,” he said.

Just down the street, old friends Judy Murphy and Pat Grass, who both grew up in Hopkinton, sat on a bench in front of the town’s library.

“I think there will definitely be some changes here, but it will go on as it always has,” said Murphy, who watched runners go by from the top of her street on Monday and had her usual cookout and house full of people.

She said she wouldn’t change anything for next year.

“We’ll just continue to do what we do and celebrate the race,” said Murphy.

Beyond extra security, she thinks the race will go on as it always has in town.

“I think we’ll all be a little more vigilant,” said Murphy. “I think there will probably be tighter security, but I think it will function as it always has -- I hope.”

Chabot, who watched the race from her store in Newton, said the day started off on a high note.

Heartbreak Hill Running Company store was open and many spectators gathered on the corner, near the infamous set of hills that challenge already tired runners.

Chabot, who is 25, grew up in Wellesley and watched the race every year with her family.

“That was something I looked forward to,” she said. “We had a spot where we always watched. We would make a big day out of it.”

Chabot said she doesn’t see the explosions deterring people but rather reminding them what the marathon stands for.

“I think it has the opposite effect of what was intended,” she said. “I feel like Boston’s stronger in a way.”

Lisa Kocian can be reached at lkocian@globe.com.
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