For more than two months, Copley Square has been blanketed with the physical markers of grief and remembrance: stuffed animals, flowers, crosses, photographs, candles, baseball caps, dozens of pairs of running shoes. For those who pass by the square, this makeshift memorial to the Boston Marathon bombing victims remains a stirring testament to the strength of the city and its people.
But now has come the time for the temporary memorial to be taken down, Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a letter to survivors and victims' families. The city plans to remove the items Tuesday and move them to the city archives in West Roxbury for cleaning, fumigation, and archiving. There, they will join other, more fragile keepsakes from the memorial — paper chains and posters, for example — that were removed from the square in early May, before the arrival of rain.
“It is my hope,” Menino wrote in the letter, dated June 17, “that the respectful closing of the temporary memorial will help us all look to the future.”
The memorial grew quickly in the weeks following the bombing, as more and more people left tokens and messages and as city workers consolidated the shrine. Early Tuesday morning, with the assistance of volunteers from the mayor's office, city archives, and the New England Museum Association, all the items should be removed in just a few hours.
Menino decided to dismantle the makeshift memorial after conversations with survivors and victims’ family members, said Katharine Lusk, one of his advisers. Many requested that the memorial stay in Copley Square for about two months following the April 15 bombing, she said, to give as many people as possible the opportunity to visit before items began to deteriorate.
On Friday afternoon, a steady stream of people visited the memorial. The sky was bright and clear. Some held cameras, stopping to photograph flags, flowers, a white poster declaring “Boston Strong,” the rows of running shoes tied to a fence.
Todd Ormiston, 45, from Ontario, said he stopped by the memorial because his wife runs marathons and has long dreamed of running in Boston.
Omar Gutierrez, 33, an avid marathoner from Mexico City, said his brother ran the Boston Marathon last year. He gestured to the row of shoes.
“All these people came here and gave up their running shoes for this memorial,” said Gutierrez. “For runners, that’s a powerful statement. It’s very moving.”
The flags and flowers and shoes are a reminder that tragedies can happen anywhere, said Charlotte Tominsky, 60, who grew up in Boston. But they are also a reminder that Bostonians care about each other, she said.
Billy Fussell, 46, who traveled to the memorial from Fort Worth, Texas, called the shrine a symbol of unity and hope. He said there was something about temporary memorials that felt more personal, more immediate, than a gravestone or monument.
“It’s just amazing,” he said. “Almost makes a grown man want to cry.”
His wife, Lori, 44, was upset to hear that the memorial would soon be gone. She said she hopes items from the temporary memorial are somehow incorporated into a permanent one, especially the shoes and baseball caps.
“All of this stuff is a very important part of history now,” she said.
After Tuesday, components of the memorial will be available for viewing at the archive upon request, Menino said. Although there are no firm plans yet, there may be discussions about putting the items on public display, said Lusk.
With the temporary memorial gone, the city will focus on planning a more permanent remembrance. In his letter, Menino announced establishment of a Remembrance Committee to oversee the creation of a permanent way to honor survivors and victims. This could be anything from a monument to an annual event or scholarship fund, said Lusk.
Menino thanked survivors and their families for input on the temporary and permanent memorials and invited them to serve on the committee.
“I continue to be proud of the courage of our great city and its people,” he said. “Thank you for the example you and your families set for us all.”
Nikita Lalwani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.