The patrons who gathered at the Forum restaurant to be near the finish line of the Boston Marathon instead found themselves with a front-row view of a tragedy.
The blasts went off right outside the trendy restaurant’s front door, shutting several businesses down. As others reopened over the summer, the Forum remained closed — until now.
On Thursday, it will become the last Boylston Street business closed by the bombings to reopen to business. The reopening — four months to the day after the Marathon — is a small but significant milestone for a healing city.
At the time of the attack, about 200 customers were enjoying the race, many of them with the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. The former Patriot’s charity provides support for children with cancer and their families. After the explosions, some revelers became accidental rescue workers.
“It was a nice day that turned chaotic,” general manager Chris Loper said Tuesday. Loper estimates he was 50 feet away when the first explosion blew out the front window. “Out of everything I remember, I choose to remember some of the better things that happened — watching my staff members help our guests any way they could, bonding together until first responders and medical personnel came in.”
The damage to the restaurant was relatively minor. The carpeting was taken away by police for evidence. The floor had to be ripped up as well. And, of course, the entire area was a crime scene for a while.
In working to reopen, the owner decided to do more than simply replace the parts that had been damaged. It couldn’t come back as the same place. So the first-floor bar has been moved, and the second floor has been renovated. Even the name was changed slightly, from Forum to Forum Restaurant and Bar. The owner is hoping it will be more of a restaurant and less of a bar in its new incarnation.
Councilor Mike Ross, whose district includes the Back Bay, said the reopening reflects the way the neighborhood and the city came together to heal after the bombing. “In one way life as we know it will never be the same, but we’re returning to that life,” Ross said.
Ross recalled the first post-Marathon prayer vigil, the night after the bombings. The Boston Police Department did not love the idea of assembling a crowd at Arlington Street Church, just beyond the perimeter of the crime scene, while the suspects were still very much at large. But beginning the process of healing was important.
“This was an important way for people to come back together and belong to something larger than themselves,” Ross said.
Obviously, the bombings have resonated far beyond the area where they took place, sometimes in ways that would have been hard to predict. In some corners they have prompted a thoughtful discussion of violence in the city, including why the city does not respond to all tragedies with the determination and unity demonstrated in the aftermath of that horrible afternoon.
“We’re a different city than we were then,” said Ross, who is running for mayor. “I think we’re a closer city and a city that will care more about each other, and will have conversations about the violence that continues to persist in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. I think people understanding that we are one city is one thing that came out of that.”
Perhaps it’s too easy to talk about lessons learned. In truth, this city grapples with the shock of being attacked every day. The reminders of the lives lost and shattered are ever-present. It’s not like reopening a restaurant changes any of that.
Still, the small victories, the moments of endurance and perseverance, matter. As of Thursday, the businesses that were toppled will all be back in business. It’s an occasion worth noting.
“I think it brings some closure and some hope that nothing in the city was permanently taken away from us,” Loper said. “It’s a show of being stronger than the catastrophe that happened.”