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Boston stronger than ever, but at what cost?


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The people of Boston and those who love it have spent the past 364 days mourning, crying, celebrating, honoring, remembering and helping those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings and their aftermath.

It will be one year on Tuesday. One more milestone to knock down and flip off. You lose, hate, murder and mayhem. Still, not a soul touched by this attack spoken to here is looking forward to it.

Four died. More than 260 were injured. Thousands more were terrified or quarantined. Millions of dollars have been raised to support the victims' families and survivors. Add a billion sad thoughts and shed tears to the region's tab.

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The four names of those who died are familiar to most.

Martin Richard, Krystle Marie Campbell, Lingzi Lu and Sean Collier.

An 8-year-old boy from Dorchester who loved to give hugs and play sports; a "wonderful, smiling, and vivacious" 29-year-old, red-headed assistant restaurant manager of Irish ancestry who lived in Somerville, Medford and Arlington during her all-too-brief life; a 23-year-old graduate student who came from the other side of the world to study in the Athens of America; and a police officer who, at the age of 27, died doing a job he always wanted to have since he was a boy and was set to finally share New England Patriots season-tickets with his stepdad in 2013.

How much more Boston Strong can you get?

None of them lived to see 30. Their names and stories will [or should] be taught in the Bay State for the next century and beyond. Each one far too precious for the cover of Rolling Stone. Place those four names names on a pedestal alongside the likes of John Hancock, Paul Revere, John Adams and John F. Kennedy.

For a hundred different reasons, three of them wanted to watch someone finish the race on Boylston Street, or be a part of that scene hours after the winners had called it a day. Three people were murdered, and more than 260 were injured [some horrifically] just because they wanted to be there. They died because they were fans of sport and humanity. They, and thousands of others, gathered at Boston's Ground Zero - Boylston Street in Copley Square - before it became Ground Zero. Bay Staters celebrating the ultimate Bay State holiday: Patriots' Day.

The fourth, Collier, gave his life in public service. MIT Badge Number 179, he was ambushed and massacred without mercy by the Brothers Grim three days later. His death late on April 18 came hours before the older of the two brothers accused in the bombing was speed-bumped. A regional lockdown followed. The surviving suspect's end came cowering aboard the Slip Away II, parked in a Watertown driveway a good three-quarters of a mile from the Charles River. His end came in part to Dave Henneberry's sharp eye and concern about some fallen shrink-wrap padding.

The week's events bring plenty of dread and uncertainty for Andrew Collier, Sean's younger-but-always-larger brother. He told The OBF Blog about his upcoming marriage plans a couple of weeks ago. Collier said he's "dreading" the anniversary of Sean's murder, which falls on Good Friday, April 18. "It's all a very big unknown. The one-year anniversary, that in itself will be hard," Andrew said. "A lot of things are going to get stirred back up and the emotions we felt at the time along with it. It's a little hard at times. Everything gets brought back up."

"Is it is going to be happy to see him being celebrated and honored, or will it be sad? It could be one or the other," Andrew said. "It's the uncertainty that I'm dreading the most."

Marc Fucarile, who was the last bombing survivor to leave the hospital after 100 days combined at Massachusetts General and Spaulding Rehabilitation Center, told The OBF Blog he would have loved to avoid all that is planned this week, except for his wedding to fiancee Jennifer Regan at Fenway Park on Thursday. Fucarile was back at the finish line Saturday for a Sports Illustrated "Boston Strong" cover shoot. "I donít want to be part of any of that near the finish line, but people are taking their time to run in honor of me, I just want to be part of this for them and be there when they cross the line" he said. "If they were not running, I wouldn't be there. No chance."

It they weren't running, none of us would be there. The Boston Marathon, in its most basic form since 1897, is a sporting competition. A 26.2-mile endurance test set up to mirror the hasty stroll by Pheidippides from Marathon to Athens [that's Greece, not Georgia] back in 490 B.C. [and sorry, but we don't do the "E" here.] It was, until 2013, the most innocent of sporting events. Sure, it had its share of corporate intrigue and shenanigans. There were some infamous moments, too. [See Jock Semple's attempted takedown of Katherine Switzer in 1967 and Rosie Ruiz's MBTA-aided victory in 1980.]

This race was sport in its simplest and most innocent form. That was its biggest draw, along with those epic lawn parties along Commonwealth Avenue in Newton and Chestnut Hill. The fastest person always won. Just like the way it's always been from the first sprint in from recess back in kindergarten. The race was once wide open to anyone who wanted to show up and give the course a try. All you had to do was be patient, and start when no one was looking. For your friends new to Boston, or those in college who weren't raised in Massachusetts, Patriots' Day is an easily acquired taste. Anyone raised in what used to be just 617 and 413 knows Patriots' Day as the unofficial start of both spring and the first "school day" of April vacation.

Like so many other things, this mass celebration Patriots Day and the Marathon is uniquely ours. [The holiday is called Patriot's Day in Maine and sort-of celebrated in Wisconsin.] It's another one those Masshole-like quirks that people from Minnesota, Utah and Oregon just don't get. Sort of like: "Why do Boston fans always swear at their own team?"

It's just what we do.

The Patriots Day holiday was forged in blood on Lexington Green, the "bridge in Concord town" and the excruciating British retreat through places like Menotomy back in 1775. The early-morning battle recreations in Lexington and Concord made lots of noise in the ensuing centuries, but the holiday was peaceful for 236 years through 2012. Patriots' Day had become the most innocent of holidays. Watching the Red Sox at 11:05 a.m. and then making your way toward Commonwealth Avenue and/or Copley Square to cheer the runners is nothing less than a rite of passage. Maybe, if you were lucky, the Bruins would be facing some first-round playoff patsy [or the Montreal Canadiens] and you'd get to spent the entire day and night in the city, catching two games, the Marathon, and raising whatever harmless hell you could as a teen or college student in between.

The hell wrought a year ago Tuesday was anything but harmless. It killed, maimed and injured. It terrified. It stunned. It bewildered. It also forged. Hardened. Strengthened.

It's most insidious casualty was innocence. The innocence that was Patriots Day and the Marathon was blown to bits thanks to a pair of backpack bombs. A fun holiday tradition has been transformed into a somber and mandatory [see Fucarile above] rite of public remembrance. Even for those who experienced the worst of it last year and lived, they to have to be there. Add another item to the casualty list.

This year's Marathon will be stronger than ever, both in terms of those running and the security surrounding it. More than 36,000 runners are entered. Countless millions of dollars will be raised for so many worthy individuals and charities, as well. For many of the entrants and for most Bostonians, safety on that course or at the finish line will be the least of their concerns. Millions have already made that pilgrimage to the finish line, whether it be out of respect, celebration, the Red Sox Rolling Rally, twisted morbid curiosity or during the daily routine of life and work.

Now what? Life and death both continue. Boston took the worst that two brothers and the hate that propelled them could ever create. Since then, we've heard countless tales of real-life "Boston Strong" from those scarred by it all. Families recovering. The dead honored and never forgotten. Missing limbs being replaced. People returning to life and work. Survivors and their caregivers falling in love. Wedding plans forged. Babies being made.

The final step in all this, the ultimate payback to the bombers, is simply that. Living. Running. Celebrating.

Liz Norden took her own small step via social media this weekend. The mother of J.P. and Paul Norden, each of whom lost a leg in the bombings, took to Twitter for the first time.

Norden, who won a $100,000 first prize as "Live With Kelly & Michael's" No. 1 "Unstoppable Mom," told The OBF Blog Sunday she began Tweeting at the suggestion of her daughter, Caitlin Norden. "She said the public needs to hear my voice."

[You can follow her @LizNorden.]

Father Chip Hines of Medford's St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church was the officiant of Campbell's funeral mass last April. He's ministered to Campbell's shattered family in the interim. After performing her funeral mass, Hines found peace and solace that same night at Fenway Park, all the while getting an unsolicited and quite stunning ticket upgrade in the process. It was a miraculous metaphor for the role the Red Sox would play in the region's civic healing.

"As a human being I was really angered by the whole bombing incident. I felt that the senseless violence was a symptom of the greater problem we face, that of a a growing number of people to whom violence is the first option," he told The OBF Blog via email on Palm Sunday. "I felt so powerless during those days after the bombing, I felt like I needed to do something, but what? Iím not a cop, Iím a priest and so I did what we do, I prayed and tried to comfort the Campbell family as much as I could. Even a year later they are still reeling from the nightmare of April 15th and quite honestly I do not know how they are ever the same again."

Seventeen members and friends of the Campbell family will be running next Monday in Krystle's honor. "One year later, our entire family continues to grieve for the loss of our wonderful, smiling, and vivacious daughter," the family said in a statement on Friday. "There is not a day that passes without our thinking of our daughter, her life, and how she contributed to the lives of our family and friends. We miss Krystle more than we can say."

The City of Medford, in conjunction with Campbell's family, last week announced plans for a $1 million memorial garden to honor Campbell, Lu, Richard and Collier; those who were injured in the bombings and their aftermath; and the race itself. Campbell graduated from Medford High School and moved to Arlington in 2012.

As a Roman Catholic priest, Hines is in the forgiveness profession. Easter Sunday falls on the day before the Marathon this year. [Both the Eastern and Western Christian churches are on the same Holy Week calendar in 2014.] Death, resurrection, redemption and forgiveness. The timing is fortuitous but offers a lesson. Fr. Hines offers these thoughts in trying to reconcile the Christian obligation to forgive and secular society's need for just punishment.

"One thing I did pray for this past year was forgiveness in my heart for the brothers who were welcomed to our country and given so much, and yet felt compelled to blow up the very people who welcomed them - Bostonians," he wrote. "I have found forgiveness for them, but that does not in any way nullify the punishment that the surviving brother should face. I hope and pray he gets life in prison with no parole, I do not believe in the death penalty, and I think having all those years to think about what he did will be true punishment. I also hope that those years behind bars will give him the time to see forgiveness from God and perhaps afford him a change of heart."

Just one more reason why I was never cut out for the priesthood.

The OBF Blog is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or hit him on at his
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