A wreath of blue and yellow flowers was tossed into Boston harbor from the deck of the USS Constitution on Tuesday morning to honor those killed and wounded in the Marathon bombing. As the wreath bobbed, a bell tolled three times in memory of the three people who died in the April 15 attack.
As the historic ship eased into the harbor’s calm waters, its deck was packed with close to 400 law enforcement and medical personnel from a myriad of agencies the US Navy was honoring with the trip aboard Old Ironsides.
In addition to the three deaths, more than 260 people were injured when two bombs exploded near the Marathon finish line. Authorities said the alleged bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are also suspects in the slaying of MIT police Officer Sean A. Collier.
“It brought us all closer together,” Frank Mastrangelo, 48, of Shirley said of the bombings. Mastrangelo, who served as captain of the finish line-area medical sweep team, said he feels a sort of brotherhood with other first responders.
“Before the Marathon, I didn’t know many of the 240 people on the medical team,” he said. “Now, it feels like one big family.”
Many aboard said that spending time with other first responders who went through similar experiences helps as they recover.
“A lot of the guys don’t say much, but just being together, all of us, and discussing what occurred, I think that is a way of healing,” Boston police Captain Paul M. Ivens said. “I know a lot of members of the other agencies very well, and we have some great relationships.”
Transit Police officers on board said they were thinking of their colleague Richard “Dic” Donohue, 33, who was shot in Watertown April 19 as he and other police officers faced off against the Tsarnaev brothers. Donohue is recovering at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, not far from where Old Ironsides is docked.
“To this day, there are daily inquiries into how he’s doing,” Transit Police Deputy Chief Robert Lenehan said. “He’s doing better. It would have been nice to have him with us on the ship today.”
Lenehan said he, too, feels a sense of community among the group of first responders.
“If we went back four months, I wouldn’t have known most of these people. Now I know many of them and have working relationships with them,” Lenehan said.
“It is an honor and a privilege to meet the people who, when things went bad, ran toward the danger to help others,” said Matthew Bonner, the commanding officer of the Constitution.
Among those aboard Tuesday was Richard DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Boston. “To be invited to be here today as part of this unique event is a tremendous honor for me and for the FBI,” DesLauriers said.
Also aboard the ship was a group of Watertown police officers who traded gunfire with the suspected terrorists on April 19. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot during the shootout with police and was run over by his brother, who fled the scene and was later captured, authorities said. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died of his injuries.
“I’m here with seven or eight officers who were involved in the Laurel Street gunfight and explosions,” Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau said. “I’m proud to be here with them and other responders today. It’s very moving to spend time with these people, to hear their stories, and to see so many brave men and women.”
The Constitution was also underway to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Midway, a 1942 naval battle often considered the turning point of World War II in the Pacific theater.
Colin A. Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung.