As the city of Boston approaches the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, Mayor Martin Walsh and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey were joined by approximately 200 community members Monday to celebrate the opening of a new memorial exhibition at the Boston Public Library.
“From the first days, people felt the call to say something here,” Walsh said to the crowd. “They reached out in solidarity, offering healing and hope. Their offerings took many forms, but their message was the same: we stand with you.”
The exhibit, titled “Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial,” is open to the public and will run through May 11. It is the first part of the #BostonBetter initiative, a collaboration of museums, libraries and cultural institutions working to provide space that will promote healing and community comfort. The exhibit features items from the original marathon memorial found in Copley Square in the weeks following the marathon.
“These tokens of compassion bear witness to something special, something that is important to all of us,” Walsh said. “They are symbols of a wider community. They remind us that we’re not alone. They remind us that by coming together, we have the strength to persevere.”
The Copley Square memorial was dismantled in June and the items were transferred to the City Archives, where the BPL exhibit’s curator, Rainey Tisdale, chose the items for the new memorial. Iron Mountain, Inc., a data management corporation headquartered in Boston, sponsored the project and over 25 institutions contributed to the planning of the “Dear Boston” memorial, said Dan Yaeger, executive director of the New England Museum Association.
“Your words remind us of how deeply the Marathon tragedy affected each and every Bostonian, and your presence today reminds us how Bostonians and Bostonians in spirit throughout the world remain united,” he said.
Amy Ryan, president of BPL, said the exhibit gives the Boston community an opportunity to remember, reflect and come together as the marathon’s anniversary draws near.
“Libraries are lifelong learning institutions and places for community gathering,” she said. “Public spaces like this serve as locations for reflection and renewal. This is precisely why we are assembled here today. Everyone who calls Boston home, supports the Boston Marathon, or loves this city, was affected by last year’s events.”
Several attendees said the memorial allows the community to come together and use the exhibit as an opportunity to heal.
Elisa Birdseye, 55, of Hyde Park, said “Dear Boston” is reflective of the ways in which Boston has changed for the better in the wake of tragedy.
“There’s an awareness as a community that there may not have been before,” she said. “Boston is really a very small town and a lot of people know each other. I don’t think we realized how much everybody means [to each other] until we get confronted with something really horrible.”
Will Twombly, 67, of Watertown, said the exhibit reveals a message that is a valuable lesson for everyone who was affected by the bombings.
“The themes have really universal applicability, not only to the event a year ago, but also to our lives today: strength and comfort and love and coming together to support one another,” he said. “I hope it [the exhibit] will inspire everyone who sees it that a community of people is capable of recovering from an incredible trauma and emerging stronger and closer as a result.”
Shira Joseph, 55, of Hingham, said she hopes the exhibit and the outpouring of love and support represented in it brings people closure and healing. After walking through the “Dear Boston” memorial, Joseph said she was most struck by the collection of 18,000 running shoes that had been left at the original memorial.
“You can’t move forward without seeing all those running shoes,” she said. “I believe in finding ways in which people can heal and closing what was a very difficult chapter and then to be able to move forward. The exhibit hit the mark because it allowed people to feel the power of the world, not just what happened in Boston.”