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Memories of bombings linger, but Boston bounces back

BOSTON - Inside and immediately outside Fenway Park, the beloved and antiquated home of the Boston Red Sox, life appears normal again.

Inside and immediately outside Fenway Park, the beloved and antiquated home of the Boston Red Sox, life appears normal again. (Winslow Townson/AP)
Inside and immediately outside Fenway Park, the beloved and antiquated home of the Boston Red Sox, life appears normal again. (Winslow Townson/AP)Read more

BOSTON - Inside and immediately outside Fenway Park, the beloved and antiquated home of the Boston Red Sox, life appears normal again.

A little less than six weeks after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon and changed this city forever, Red Sox fans spilled into Fenway Park on Thursday night and paid tribute to the team's former manager, Terry Francona.

Outside, the carnival-like atmosphere that can only be found at neighborhood ballparks like Fenway and Chicago's Wrigley Field was in full bloom and should be again during the Phillies' games here the next two nights.

Walk a mile east from Fenway or take the T - the name of the city's subway system - from the Kenmore to the Copley stop and you'll be in the middle of where all the gruesome mayhem unfolded April 15 just before 3 p.m.

Cross the Charles River to the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass., and you'll find broken hearts among all the brilliant minds.

Nothing is normal about the makeshift memorial in the middle of Copley Square, where the medical tents were set up on the day of the marathon. Nothing is normal about the makeshift memorial outside MIT's Stata Center paying tribute to Sean Collier, the 27-year-old campus police officer who was ambushed four days after the marathon bombings by the same two men who have been accused of the terrorist attack.

Signs of resilience are everywhere. Business is bustling on Boyleston Street. The only tangible evidence that anything at all happened near the marathon's gold-striped finish line are the closed Forum nightclub and the rectangular memorial on Copley Square.

The Atlantic Fish Company and the Starbucks that flank the Forum were filled with sidewalk patrons Thursday and Friday. Even the Forum promises to reopen soon. Marathon Sports, an ingeniously placed store for runners where the first bomb exploded at the finish line, has been back in business for more than a month.

"It's just incredibly busy," said Peter Gilmore, a 23-year-old store employee who ran his first Boston Marathon six weeks ago. "Everybody is so supportive. It has been at least twice as busy. The people in here talk about it all day. That's all they want to talk about."

Given the magnitude of the event, that's understandable but not always easy for the employees.

"It's a little exhausting, obviously, when it's in your face all day every day," Gilmore said. "We're trying to get back to normal, but, of course, you expect people to talk about it because they want to be supportive."

Gilmore had left the store and headed home before the first bomb exploded. He tried to get on the T but was turned away. He hailed a cab with some friends and they asked the driver to turn on the radio.

"All I heard was 'Bomb at Marathon Sports, blood everywhere,' and I just started instantly thinking about how many funerals I was going to have to go to in the next week," Gilmore said.

Three people - Krystle Campbell, 29, Martin Richard, 8, and Lu Lingzi, 23 - were killed. Gilmore did not know any of them or any of the seriously wounded victims. He does know Shane O'Hara, the store manager recognized as a hero after he ran outside to help the wounded.

"Our store manager was incredible," Gilmore said. "The bomb went off and there was instant confusion. You don't know what's going on, but while everyone else was confused and shocked, he made a beeline straight to the sidewalk. When I heard that, it didn't surprise me one bit. I thought, 'Yeah, that sounds about right for Shane.' "

The memorial in Copley Square, which sprang up shortly after the area reopened for business, is drawing crowds day and night. Boston police officers are assigned around the clock to the area.

Mike and Karen Youngs, a couple from Charlton, Mass., visited Friday afternoon. They were supposed to be in Boston the day after the marathon with their son Nathan, who has enrolled at the University of Massachusetts in Boston this fall.

"We're staying in Boston tonight and we had to come see this," Mike Youngs said.

It is something to see. Flowers, hats and running shoes are among the thousands of items on display in remembrance of the victims. It is supposed to help, but it doesn't entirely soothe the nerves of a mother about to send her child to school in the city.

"We were here a couple weeks ago and just being on the T and seeing the backpacks, there is just a feeling of unease everywhere," Karen Youngs said.

Andrew Bolton, a 31-year-old neuroscience graduate student at MIT, could not have felt any more uneasy than he did on the Friday night after the bombings. He lives next to the gas station where the carjacking victim escaped from the two bombing suspects who are also accused of killing Collier.

"Scared," is what he felt that night. "It was totally out of the ordinary."

Walk around the MIT campus and it is the ideal of the American melting pot. People of all nationalities roam amid the engineering and research buildings. The Jerome Lemelson Center had prosthetic devices on display and it was impossible not to wonder how much the research there would help the limbless victims of the bombings.

Bolton answered questions inside the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, which sits on Vassar Street right near where Collier was killed.

"So sad," the student said. "He got murdered for no reason. What's weird is we still don't have any idea what they were doing here. What were they going to do? Were they going to blow up a building? [Collier] may have saved a bunch of people's lives just by showing up."

Bolton said he believes a sense of normalcy has returned at MIT, but constant reminders of what happened six weeks ago remain.

"I think there is a sense of normalcy back," Bolton said. "But it's weird because this guy [younger bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev] went to high school with my cousin. She knew him very well. One of my best friends was right next to the bomb. It's weird because you know all these people involved and it just kind of happened and it's over.

"I just hung out with a guy a couple days ago who got evacuated from the bomb site and we didn't even talk about it. It was on Saturday Night Live the other day. They were making fun of the terrorists, so it's weird. At first, it was really scary . . . and then all of a sudden a few weeks later there is a joke about it on Saturday Night Live. I didn't think it was funny at all."