Pedestrians on Boylston Street Wednesday were greeted by an unexpected but overdue sight: four towering pillars of spiraling metal, bronze gleaming in the morning sunlight.
The spires, which took about two hours to install, are the most visible features thus far of two long-awaited memorials commemorating the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
“It’s a big moment,” said Patrick Brophy, Boston’s chief of operations. “I think it’s important for Boston. I think it’s important for the families who suffered tragedy here, lost loved ones here, who were injured.”
Over the next week, workers will continue to add to the memorial site at 755 Boylston St., where one of the bombs detonated in front of the former Forum restaurant. The finished memorial will include 21-foot cylindrical glass light fixtures, encased by the bronze spires, as well as a sidewalk with different types of stone representing people from around New England affected by the bombings.
“There are pieces of bronze that are protecting a light, which is supposed to be how we protect something that’s very fragile,” explained artist Pablo Eduardo, who was selected by the families of the victims to design the memorials. “And [it symbolizes] how fleeting life [is]. In one moment, things change.”
A nearly identical memorial will be erected nearby in the next few weeks, at the Marathon finish line where the other bomb exploded. Both will feature smaller pillars, made of stone sourced from individualized locations, representing the three people who were killed in 2013: Martin Richard, an 8-year-old third-grader from Dorchester; Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China; and Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager from Medford.
The memorials will be framed by cherry trees and include bronze bricks inscribed with the names of two police officers: MIT officer Sean Collier of Somerville, who was shot and killed by the marathon bombers; and Dennis Simmonds of Boston, who died from injuries sustained during a shootout with the bombing suspects.
The spires immediately attracted attention from dozens of passersby, who snapped photos and filmed workers gently straightening them and fitting them into the memorial.
Di Kirwan, 52, had thought the cordoned-off site was being turned into a summer patio, but after learning of its purpose, she was thrilled.
“I think this will bring the whole city together,” said Kirwan, who lives nearby. “I’m proud to be [a] Bostonian.”
Molly Allison, 15, was walking with her father on the other side of the street when they saw the spires going up and knew they had to stop. She was glad they did; as a high school cross-country and track runner, she said she feels a special connection with the memorial.
“I think the running community . . . we all have this respect for one another,” said Allison, who is visiting from California. “Runners are such strong people. . . . I think it’s really incredible that the community understands that and is coming together.”
The $2 million project was originally planned to be completed in time for the fifth anniversary of the bombing in 2018, but was repeatedly delayed. Eduardo said the city was patient and gave him the time to be thorough in his process, which included meetings with the victims’ families and subsequent redesigns.
At the consultations with the families, the artist was “just seeing what their reactions, what their feelings were,” he said. “And when we felt it felt right, we went with what we had.”
An earlier proposal for the memorial featured larger stone obelisks, he said, but it was decided that a subtler design was better.
“We had to keep it elegant, and simple, and to the scale of Back Bay,” Eduardo said. “We want to give a little place of reflection to people that are interested.”
Therese Sellers, 58, a longtime friend of Eduardo’s, came to observe the installation of the newest pieces of the memorial.
“It’s moving to come back and watch something beautiful happening here, this many years later,” she said. “It’s exciting when art can redeem loss. This was a site of tragedy and today, we’re celebrating, and we’re excited.”