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Boston Marathon Memorial Exhibition at Boston Central Library

To mark the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings, the Boston Public Library (B.P.L.) displayed the exhibition “Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial” in McKim Exhibition Hall.[1] For a limited time, the public can view a few selected objects from two makeshift memorials that sprang up at the police barricade at the intersection of Boylston Street and Berkley Street and in Copley Square.

On April 18, 2013, crime scene technicians inspect a rooftop on the south side of Boylston Street beside the Boston Public Library above the sight of the Boylston Street marathon finish line bombings.
On April 18, 2013, crime scene technicians inspect a rooftop on the south side of Boylston Street beside the Boston Public Library above the sight of the Boylston Street marathon finish line bombings.
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

When officials dismantled the memorials last June, they placed thousands of objects in the City of Boston Archives. According to the B.P.L., “People from across the globe left flowers, posters, notes, t-shirts, hats, tokens of all shapes and sizes, and—most significantly—running shoes.”

Each of the objects left at the memorial, whether giant banner or tiny scrap of paper, store-bought or handmade, was a message of love and support for grieving families and a grieving city. They were hope in material form, symbolizing the human desire to help, comfort, connect, and sustain when confronted with great tragedy.

The B.P.L. organized the exhibition with the Boston City Archives, the Boston Art Commission, and the New England Museum Association with financial support from Iron Mountain. The exhibition opened on Monday April 7, 2014 and will close on Sunday, May 11, 2014.

The two homemade bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street on Monday, April 15, 2013 killed three people – twenty-nine-year-old Krystle Marie Campbell, twenty-three-year-old Lu Lingzi, and eight-year-old Martin William Richard – and wounded 264 others, according to an article Deborah Kotz wrote for The Boston Globe. After the F.B.I. showed pictures of the suspected bombers to the news media on Thursday, April 18, 2013, friends joked to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev a Chechen-American student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth that he looked like Suspect #2, as The Boston Globe reported ten days later.

Within hours, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (whom the Russian Federal Security Service had warned the F.B.I. in 2011 were suspected militants) allegedly killed M.I.T. police officer Sean Collier and carjacked an S.U.V. After a car chase, twenty-six-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev received fatal injuries in a firefight with police in Watertown, Massachusetts early in the morning of Friday, April 19, 2013.

Police and at least one witness on the residential street state the Tsarnaev brothers also lobbed more homemade bombs at the police. Police believe a wounded Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escaped in the stolen vehicle, possibly running over his brother in the process, and went into hiding.

What followed was an unprecedented manhunt by hundreds, perhaps thousands of police officers and F.B.I. agents in a twenty block search area around the vehicle Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apparently abandoned, during which residents were ordered to shelter in place (meaning that they should lock themselves in their homes). Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, pleaded with him on television to turn himself in. After Governor Deval Patrick lifted the shelter in place order that evening, David Henneberry stepped outside and noticed something amiss with his boat.
Henneberry found blood and then uncovered a body under the tarp. He called 911 (“102 hours in pursuit of Marathon suspects”).

Four members of a Boston Transit Police S.W.A.T. team, Kenny Tran, Brian Harer, Saro Thompson, and Jeff Campbell took nineteen-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into custody. Boston Globe Correspondent Todd Feather reported on April 25, 2014 that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was “facing federal charges of using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death.” On January 30, 2014, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would seek the death penalty.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow did not claim his body and reverted to using her maiden name. His sisters and his uncle separately stated that his family would see to it he received a Muslim burial, as Daily Mail reported noted. In May of 2013, the F.B.I. announced Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have also been responsible for an unsolved triple homicide on September 11, 2011.

The Boston Marathon is held on Patriot’s Day, the third Monday of April. In 2014, that meant the 118th Boston Marathon was held on Easter Monday (April 21, 2014).

This year, runners and witnesses along the 26.2-mile-long route were protected by roughly 4,000 uniformed and plainclothes police officers, and National Guardsmen, more than twice as many as guarded the route in 2012, Alana Semuels wrote in the Los Angeles Times in describing the preparations (“Boston waits to see whether security hampers marathon festivity”). The route was also patrolled by 100 police dog units, double the number from 2012.

Another 260 people worked in a multi-agency control center, triple the number from 2012. Police watched closed-circuit television monitors with live video feeds from 100 cameras along the route and at least one helicopter. There were 36,000 runners, about 9,000 more than in 2012.

[1] The B.P.L.’s Central Library is divided between two buildings. The McKim Building in Copely Square houses the research collections of the B.P.L., along with rare books, and fine art. Famed architect Charles Follen McKim (1847-1909) of the firm McKim, Mead, and White designed the building.