Survivors and family members of those killed when two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon gathered Monday evening for one last look at a spontaneous public memorial in Copley Square commemorating the dead and injured.
Among the flowers, banners, handmade signs, and running shoes, they stood and sat, many using crutches and several in wheelchairs, for a brief prayer service under a pair of orange canopies.
Sarah Rothenberg, a Boylston Street resident who witnessed the bombings from her apartment, said she was among those invited by city officials to attend the ceremony but preferred to remain behind police barricades erected to give the survivors and the families privacy.
“Any opportunity I have to show my support for Boston and for the victims, I’m there,” said Rothenberg, 28, a kindergarten teacher.
Rothenberg said she had been excited to have an apartment with four large windows overlooking Boylston Street and had invited many friends and family to a viewing party.
“We were all sitting in the windows, watching the finish line, and what started off as such a beautiful celebration turned so horrible,” she said. “It was unreal.”
Rothenberg said she has visited the memorial many times and left her own handwritten message to the victims of the bombings.
She is surrounded by reminders of the violence, she said. As a runner, she regularly passes the sites where both bombs exploded.
“It used to just be those spots I’d run by and I’d never think about it, and now I’m reminded every day of what happened,” she said.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a June 17 letter to survivors and victims’ families that city workers would dismantle the memorial Tuesday and move the items to the city archives in West Roxbury for cleaning, fumigation, and archiving.
Members of the Richard family of Dorchester attended the ceremony, a rare public appearance by a family devastated by the attack.
Martin Richard, who would have turned 9 this month, was killed in the blasts. His sister, Jane, 7, lost a leg. Denise, the children’s mother, suffered a head injury and lost vision in an eye. Their father, Bill, received shrapnel wounds and suffered hearing loss. The eldest child, Henry, was unharmed.
Reporters and onlookers were asked to remain across the street during the ceremony, out of respect for the survivors and victims’ families.
Dot Joyce, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said the prayer service was led by the Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, priest in charge at Trinity Church, and Nancy S. Taylor, senior minister at Old South Church. It included remarks from Menino and Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the city’s commissioner of public health, who helped organize the event, she said.
“This was an opportunity for survivors and families to have a chance to privately . . . view the memorial, remove any personal items that may have been left for them specifically, and participate in a very brief prayer service,” Joyce said.
Milton resident David Stokle, 48, said he ran his first Boston Marathon unofficially when he was in the eighth grade and hopes to run once more when he turns 50.
He compared the innocent victims of the bombing to nine climbers killed Sunday in Pakistan on that country’s second-highest mountain. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
“I hope that they do put a small sculpture [in Copley Square], maybe a small replica of a metal fence with some shoes on it, so that we can remember the people who suffered,” said Stokle. “And the people who caused other people to suffer could see that and might reflect upon what they did.”
Survivors Adrianne Haslet, a dance instructor who lost part of her left leg, and her husband, Air Force Captain Adam Davis, who had served in Afghanistan, lingered after the ceremony.
As others filed onto buses provided by the city, Haslet sat on the ground inside the memorial area, writing a message on a large banner.
The evening was muggy and hot, with temperatures remaining in the high 80s throughout the ceremony. Kat Powers was present with the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts, alongside 12 disaster mental health volunteers invited by the city, and helped hand out water bottles and tissues.
“I saw a lot of hugs,” she said. “This was a nice way for the families to have some privacy, their own thoughts.”
Around 7:30 p.m., police removed the barricades and allowed the public back into the memorial for one last look.