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In Hopkinton, the start of the Boston Marathon, residents pray for healing

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  April 17, 2013 02:54 PM

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Vigil attendees held hands in silent prayer at the Hopkinton multi-faith service today. The event was held steps away from the Boston Marathon's official starting line.

Just two days before, Hopkinton’s town center bustled with activity: locals pitched tents on the Town Common park, hosting barbecues and celebrating the start of this year’s marathon, which some residents refer to as the town’s first true day of summer.

But on Wednesday, a day filled with rays of sunshine and clear blue skies, dark and gloomy expressions plagued the faces of nearly 100 people who gathered in the same small green space, located mere steps from the official Boston Marathon starting point, to remember and pray for the victims injured and killed in the terrorist blasts that went off at the finish line of this year's race.

The hour-long multi-faith vigil was led by Rob Davis, pastor of the Vineyard Church of Hopkinton, who told the crowd that he had completed the 26.2-mile run shortly before the two bombs exploded. The blasts killed three people and injured almost 200 more.

Davis said that after he changed out of his sweaty running clothes Monday, he headed back to the finish line with another pastor from the church, Jeff Biggers, to wait for Biggers’ wife to complete her race, he told the gathered crowd.

Then everything broke loose.

“I heard the bomb. I heard people screaming, hearing a crowd go hysterical, hearing people that are…” Davis paused. “I don’t want to give the graphics… I’m shook up. I’m still shook up.”

Davis, who said he himself still felt guilty and confused by the tragedy, asked for the crowd to pray for the individuals wounded or killed and their families; to pray for law enforcement and medical officials; and to pray for healing and moving forward.

Jeff Biggers, the pastor who was with Davis at the finish line when the explosions went off, took deep breaths as he began his prayers for police and emergency responders in front of the crowd.

“They didn’t run from tragedy, but into it. They put their own fear and safety aside to bring compassion to the suffering,” Biggers said. “Lord, give them peace. Give them sleep and rest at night, when all those images come back to them.”

In the gathered crowd, some clasped their hands in front of them in prayer, while others held their arms out in front of them – palms up – to symbolize lifting the injured to the heavens. Some cried, trying to downplay their tears behind sunglasses, while others held tissues to their nose.

At one point, everyone gathered to hold hands. Bagpipes blasted through the air with the comforting melody of “Amazing Grace” before seguing into “America the Beautiful.” During the chorus, people began to chime in: “America! America! God shed His grace on thee.”

As the emotional vigil came to an end, Davis also pleaded with the crowd to let go of their anger and rage at the situation.

“Hatred won’t help us with healing,” he said.

After the memorial, Biggers said that in Copley Square, before the explosions, he and Davis pushed through a crowd of spectators to get closer to the finish line so they could catch a glimpse of Biggers’ wife.

“When the first one went off, we were caught off guard,” Biggers said. “But with the second one, we felt the impact, and the noise was overwhelming. There were just masses off people, moving, and yelling.”

In Hopkinton today, residents who said they gathered around their television sets Monday to watch the news unfold said they had a tough time wrapping their minds around the situation.

“In Hopkinton, we were in utter shock,” said Laurel Coolbaugh, pastor of the Woodville Baptist Church. “How could this happen on a glorious day’s event, so close to home?”

Hopkinton Police patrolman and resident Tom Griffin said he had been patrolling the town early on Monday for the start of the marathon.

Normally, after a marathon, “the town is usually festive,” Griffin said. “You see a lot of cookouts and the weather’s usually good. It’s kind of like the first real day of summer.”

But this year was different.

“It started out that way, but it quickly turned somber,” he said. “Instead of festivities, you saw a lot of sadness and disbelief.”

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com
Follow her on Twitter: @jaclynreiss

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