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Peabody residents gather to honor victims of Boston Marathon bombings

Posted by Terri Ogan  April 23, 2013 08:59 PM

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Over 200 Peabody residents united Tuesday night to honor the lives lost and affected by the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings.

The interfaith service, which was held at Peabody's St. John the Baptist Church, drew local officials and residents alike to come together as one.

Voices echoed throughout the hall singing lyrics to "America the Beautiful" and tears swelled up as members of the congregation reflected upon the tragic attacks that resulted in the death of four and injured over 200 others.

"Our hearts ache for those who were lost and for the loved ones now and forever shadowed by grief," said Mayor Edward Bettencourt as he addressed the congregation. "How do we explain such evil? How can we fathom such brutality? How can we begin to comprehend the thought process of those who would bring death upon such innocent souls? The fact is that we cannot. What we can do however is to pay tribute to the lives of those that were lost."

The service featured speeches from various religious officials including Rabbi Emily Mathis from Temple Beth Shalom and Pastor Joel Anderle of the Community Covenant Church. All of them delivered words of wisdom and reflected upon the tragic events.

Volunteers gathered donations from attendees for the One Fund Boston to help those that were affected by the tragic event, as the choir of St. Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church sang "Kontakion of Great Lent."

"It's wonderful that the community came together to pay our respects to those that have passed and reflect on the tragedy," said Peabody City Councilor Anne Manning-Martin. "And also come together as a community to be one in that."

Since Peabody is a neighboring city to Boston, Manning-Martin said, it's important to stand strong with the leaders and residents across the state and country.

"In the face of this tragedy, there's been loss of life, there's been fear, and there's been a lot of financial loss as well," Manning-Martin said. "We as a community, if we come together and focus on all of those things in support of our neighbors in Boston, I think we'll all be better off to help those businesses get back on track."

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Following the service, those that attended funneled down to the lower hall of the church to enjoy chocolate chip cookies, coffee and various other desserts; a way to add some sweetness during a bitter time.

Peabody residents Miles Harkins, 49, and Sharon Harkins, 51, said it seemed right to be there after a frantic scare of their own on Marathon Monday.

The Boston Marathon was the first 26.2-mile race for Miles. He was fortunate enough to finish, but after he got his medal from his niece who was voluntarily handing them out, he heard the two blasts.

His wife was with two of their children and panicked. Cell-phone service was down making it difficult to get in touch, but they were eventually able to meet up near the Clarendon Hotel, the "family meeting area," Miles said.

"It was mind boggling to go 26 miles and there were people lined up the whole way," Miles said. "That's the tragedy of it. It wasn't an attack on a building, a monument. It was an attack on people."

The church in which the interfaith service was held had deeper meaning to the Harkins than most. It is where the couple got married 27 years ago, and where two of their three children were baptized.

Being there Tuesday night had added value for Miles and Sharon.

"I don't know it seemed right," Sharon said.

Miles added that despite the tragedy that has rocked not only this state, but country as well, Boston and its surrounding cities and towns have been able to come together.

"Yeah it's made us not 'Boston strong,' but 'Boston stronger,'" Miles said. "We're going to be even stronger because of this. It's things like this that pulls the community together. It makes the fire burn deeper and brighter inside to give us more resolve. We're not Peabody-ites. At this time, we're all Bostonians."

Terri Ogan can be reached at oganglobe@gmail.com, or follow her on Twitter.

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