Some were runners. Others were friends and family members of those hurt in the blasts. And two, the Norden brothers, sat wheelchair-bound near the spot where they each lost a leg.
But, one month after the Boston Marathon bombings, the dozens gathered in the Back Bay on a rainy Wednesday evening carrying signs and donning “Boston Strong” T-shirts descended on Boylston Street with a purpose: to finish the race.
More than a dozen Marathon runners crossed the freshly painted yellow and blue finish line, the place where a deadly attack left 3 dead, more than 250 injured, and hundreds more stopped precious miles short of finishing the Marathon, as they tried to bring themselves some form of emotional closure.
“Four hours, 50 minutes, and 31 days,” declared Sharon Novick of South Boston, as she crossed the finish line just after 5 p.m. and embraced a group of friends who had come to watch her complete her first Marathon a month after she began it. Wearing her bright blue and yellow Marathon shirt, Novick reached to wipe a tear from her eye as half a dozen friends engulfed her in embraces just feet from where the bombs went off.
The most dramatic finish came at 6:38 p.m., as a light rain began to fall from an overcast sky. Boston police shut down traffic and set up a tent over the the finish line and wheeled out J.P. Norden, 33, and Paul Norden, 31, brothers from Stoneham who each lost a leg in the attacks.
As the brothers were encircled by dozens of other runners, friends, family members, and first responders, about 10 walkers, laboring each step and some wiping tears from their eyes, made their way into sight.
With broad smiles, the brothers sat at the finish line as their friends and family, who had walked the Marathon’s length in their honor, slowly approached.
Soon, Paul was lifting himself off the wheelchair seat, straining to get a glimpse as they strode closer.
Clad in T-shirts and sweatpants, the group set off from the Marathon starting line in Hopkinton at 9 a.m. and walked all 26.2 miles in honor of the Norden brothers, who are receiving treatment for their injuries at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston.
“This is our city, the greatest city around,” said Peter Brown, the Norden brothers’ uncle, who helped organize the walk and blamed too many slices of pizza for his position at the rear of the walking group.
“We’re taking back the streets of Boston.”
With a block to go, the group, which included two of the Nordens’ sisters and many of their close friends, broke into a jog and then filed one by one into the arms of each brother, crowning them with the Marathon completion medals they never received in April, as a swarm of family members and friends that had gathered at the finish line broke into a “Stoneham Strong” cheer.
“This is unbelievable. To have my friends and family do this for me is unbelievable, but not surprising,” said J.P. Norden, moments after the group met him at the finish line.
“I know I’d do the same for them.”
“I don’t know if I’d do this for them,” his brother Paul jokingly chimed in with a chuckle as his family surrounded him for another photo.
“This isn’t really just for us. It’s for Boston. It’s for all of Boston.”