Two brothers severely injured in the Boston Marathon bombings one month ago today and a group of runners whose race was cut short by the explosions gathered at the finish line this evening to greet family members who had walked the race route in the brothers' honor.
More than three dozen friends, family members and spectators gathered at the marathon finish line, encircling brothers J.P. Norden, 33, and Paul Norden, 31, who each lost a leg and suffered burns and other wounds.
Dressed in blue and yellow "Stoneham Strong" shirts, friends surrounded the brothers as their family members neared the finish line.
At 6:38 pm, half a dozen family members made it across the freshly painted yellow and blue finish line and embraced the brothers.
The crowd was joined by a dozen or so marathon runners who returned to the course Wednesday to finish the race.
"It was emotional to finish after being stopped so close," said Jessica Cohen, of South Boston, who crossed the finish line around 5:30 pm after having been stopped at the 25 mile mark on the day of the race.
"After everything that we, that the city has gone through, this month, it meant so much to finish."
The Norden brothers are now receiving treatment at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, but left to greet their family members, who set off from the starting line of the Marathon, in Hopinton, at about 9 a.m. today.
"We wanted to do some thing to help with the healing, that could pay tribute and raise some funds to help the boys long-term," said the brothers' uncle, Peter Brown, speaking of the various ways the family wants to help them. "What I worry about is, six months from now, a year from now, what these guys are going to have to do to get better, and process what they've endured."
Brown said this morning that Wednesday's goal was to walk the marathon route together, as family and friends.
Brown called it a "monumental" task when he started out this morning, adding he was feeling a little apprehensive about the finish line area, where two bomb blasts killed three and wounded more than 250.
"I'm trying to focus on just finishing this thing," said Caitlin Norden, speaking with her sister, Colleen, near the Hopkinton starting line this morning.
"It's for them, so we'll do whatever we can to help them," Caitlin said, referring to her brothers J.D. and Paul. "They went to watch their friend finish, so we're going to finish it for them."
Caitlin said her brothers were surprised to learn of the walk, but added she was hoping to see them at the finish line on Boylston Street. "We're so tight. We couldn't be closer."
"I feel like, what they've been through, we can handle a few blisters to get through this," said Caitlin. "Just having them in our mind will get us through it."
Caitlin said her family has drawn strength and inspiration by watching the brothers recover. She said she has been to memorials at the finish line, and said she was grateful that her family can still tell the brothers "we love them."
Brown said the brothers have been getting "stronger every day" and have been "incredibly positive."
Clad in a shirt whose back read, "We decide when our Marathon ends," family friend Holly Judd, of Woburn, who was also walking the route, described the family as supportive and "amazing."
Now that the shock of the events is starting to wear off, Judd said it was time for the healing to begin. "That's the next step."
"I just kind of feel that this was taken away from J.P. and Paul, so we're going to finish it for them," Judd said. "They have amazing strength."
Supporters of the Nordens weren't the only ones who decided to make the trek to Boston Wednesday morning. Earlier, a small group, organized by Phil White of Derby, Vt. through Facebook, departed Hopkinton to walk the marathon route.
"I love Boston," White said. "I wanted to do something to honor the victims, and do something to take back the route from the demons of hate and fear."
Elaine Howley of Waltham, who was part of White's group, said that "we need to stand up and stand together, and make a strident noise against those who would have it undone."
Noreen Geraghty of Holyoke said she was hoping to feel a sense of closure after crossing finish line. "First there was a lot of anger, now it's about getting on with everything and healing. And I think today will be a nice part of that."