Suddenly, the loudest sounds at the Boston Marathon finish line were the rhythmic padding ofdozens of runners’ shoes and the gentle flutter of the flags of foreign nations lining Boylston Street.
The steady, exuberant roar of spectators subsided, replaced by a few quiet sobs. Some bowed heads, others stared resolutely forward.
It was 2:49 p.m.
Dressed in matching coral-colored “Corcoran Strong” T shirts, Celeste Corcoran and her daughter, Sydney, walked hand-in-hand down one side of Boylston Street to meet Celeste’s sister, Carmen, and run the last block together — Celeste on her new, blade-style prosthetic running legs.
Outside Marathon Sports, Kinsey Minschke wiped away a tear, right hand shaking. Minschke, a junior at Emerson College from Virginia Beach, Va., was standing in the same spot last year until moving away minutes before the explosions.
At Trinity Church on Boylston Street, about 100 yards past the finish line, an elderly runner who had collapsed lay on his back as medical staff tended to him. Wheelchairs ferried other marathoners to the medical tent. And some runners sat on the curb, too tired to walk, their heads in their hands.
On Boylston Street, at the Public Garden, a teenager bounced a basketball, a baby cried, two runners sat in the shade eating apples. Thomas and Signe Moeller, from Copenhagen, made their way slowly along Boylston Street, arms wrapped around each other’s waists. He let his running shoes dangle from his hand, she consoled him over the 3:45 he ran, 45 minutes slower than he had hoped.
At the Forum restaurant, music blared; partygoers raised their voices, bartenders garnished drinks with bright wedges of lime, and patrons checked their cellphones to track the runners they were waiting for. Heather Abbott, fuchsia running shoes on her one foot and her prosthesis, stepped onto the patio, and stood in the full blaze of the afternoon sun, her blonde hair glowing in the light, in almost the exact spot where darkness descended a year ago.
At Mile 23 in Brookline, Christine Laura of West Roxbury was reeling from the high of seeing her niece, Laura Wiatt, run her first Boston Marathon. A whiff of hamburgers grilling filled the air. Two boys played catch. Someone hoisted an orange placard at the runners. It said “Awesome. (You).” Onlookers screamed: “Almost there, almost there!”
A handful of students were still cheering in the “scream tunnel’’ in front of Wellesley College. Some rang cowbells to encourage the last few runners hitting the race’s half-way point. Wellesley Department of Public Works employeeswere breaking down the metal barriers, and sweeping up paper signs left behind by spectators.
The commuter-rail’s eastbound Train 522 from Worcester pulled into Natick Station carrying Marathon spectators and other travelers headed toward Boston. Dozens of other spectators waited to join them on the train; many were wearing Boston Strong gear or T-shirts cheering on particular runners. A group in bright orange declared their allegiance to Team Debbie.
Natick Center was a ghost town. The sidewalk was littered with trash, but devoid of people; traffic had resumed along Route 135 a half-hour beforehand. A handful of neon-vested public works employees loaded the last of the orange barrier cones onto a John Deere tractor, then rode away.
In Newton, Alma Bocaletti felt that same hot sun on her face and ate a Cheez-It cracker offered by her niece. Bocaletti, who was standing next to Krystle M. Campbell in front of Marathon Sports last year, had just cheered for her brother at Mile 17.
“All is well,” she said.
At the finish line, the voice of Tom Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, shattered the silence.
“And now take it forward with a yell that they will hear!” Grilk boomed.
An ovation unlike any heard all day rose above Boylston Street, and echoed through the urban canyon into the bright blue sky.
It was 2:50 p.m.
More from the 2014 Boston Marathon — Gasper: Boston reclaims its Marathon | Photos: Marathon scenes | The ‘Scream Tunnel’ and Heartbreak Hill | The elite runners | Boylston Street | Videos from the Marathon | Full coverage