On the fifth anniversary of the day bombs placed near the Boston Marathon finish line left three dead and more than 260 wounded, Governor Charlie Baker reflected on the resilience of survivors, both those injured in the terror attack and those who lost loved ones on that indelible day.
“You’re heroes to each other, and you’re heroes to all who’ve had a chance to hear your stories,” Baker said Sunday morning. “And the same goes for those people who were damaged by the events of that day, who have found a positive path forward, a way to build a new life, a different one, but a good one on the heels of that tragedy.”
Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh spoke inside the Boston Public Library’s Central Branch before an audience of bombing survivors, family members, and other elected officials.
Short videos gave a glimpse of life in the aftermath of the bombings. One showed spectator Michelle L’Heureux and marathoner Dave Fortier, both injured by the first bomb in front of Marathon Sports, pay forward the gift of their recoveries. Together, they started the One World Strong Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting survivors from the Boston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Manchester, England, London, Paris, and Nice, France, attacks.
Another video highlighted the friendship that formed between Boston police Officer Lauren Woods and the family of Lingzi Lu, the Boston University graduate student from China who died in Woods’s arms in front of the former Forum restaurant.
“These years have been filled with hard work, and the hard work of healing,” Walsh said. “This survivor community has built unbreakable bonds of friendship.”
Earlier Sunday, Baker and Walsh laid wreaths at the bombing sites. Patty Campbell, mother of victim Krystle Campbell, joined the governor near the finish line, where they shared an emotional embrace.
The family of 8-year-old victim Martin Richard joined Walsh down the street and later participated in a moment of silence in his honor. At that event in Dorchester, those present observed a moment of silence for Martin with the Richard family and then raised their voices in unison, singing the Andra Day song “Rise Up” with a chorus of children on stage.
“And I’ll rise up. I’ll rise like the day. I’ll rise up. I’ll rise unafraid. I’ll rise up. And I’ll do it a thousand times again,” they sang.
Bill Richard, the father of Martin Richard, expressed his family’s gratitude for the scores of community members who attended.
“From family to family, person to person, we truly appreciate why you’re here,” he said, “and we hope that you’ll continue to serve and give back to your community.”
The feeling along Boylston Street on Sunday morning was alternately somber and joyous. Runners took selfies along the race route, hugging loved ones.
Laura Pierce started crying when she saw the finish line.
“It takes so much to get here and to train for this,” said Pierce, 31, a marketing manager from Michigan.
“You just pour your heart and soul into something like this,” she continued. “Especially after 2013, it just gives everybody the drive to push even harder and to give back to the city. It’s just an incredible honor to be here.”
Pierce gathered with a group of strangers turned friends, women who connected through a running community on Instagram. For many, this was their first time running Boston, they said, and the thought of achieving this goal after all their hard work caused several to tear up.
Jeff Breese, 40, knelt near the finish line, his 5-year-old son Everett on his knee and 8-year-old daughter Mallory by his side, pointing out flowers and notes laid at one of the bombing sites.
The Arizona runner tried to explain to his children the attack that his wife, Elena, had witnessed after the bombs exploded while he was about a mile from the finish line. Breese said they are returning to the Marathon for the first time to turn the page on a difficult chapter of their lives.
“I told her that I wanted to come back for the fifth anniversary,” Breese said. “Get it done.”
Elena Breese said she struggled for years to recover from the trauma of that day.
“I remember all of it,” she said. “I tell people now I had a front-row seat to the terror. . . . I didn’t ask for help until about three-and-a-half years after the bombing. I voluntarily hospitalized myself because the PTSD symptoms were so terrible.”
Last year, she connected for the first time with other survivors, finding a community that helped her begin to move forward.
“It’s really taken me every day since getting out of that hospital to fight for myself,” she said, “and finally I’m in a much better place.”