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Interfaith service at Cathedral draws crowds expressing community support

Posted by Laura Gomez  April 18, 2013 12:11 PM

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Eleven chimes rang out from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Thursday, indicating the start of the inter-faith service with President Barack Obama. Thousands of people lined Washington Street talking with each other, sharing stories, and waiting to see if they would be able to enter the church.

The service was expected to accommodate 2,000 people, including victims of the Boston Marathon explosions on Monday, families, friends, and runners, as well as Massachusetts state representatives and volunteers from the race. (For coverage of the speech, go here.)

Maureen Quaranto volunteered in the medical tent on the day of the marathon and stood in line with a few friends starting at 6 a.m.

“It’s really important not only for others, for the victims their families, but for all of the nation. Really, for all of the world,” she said as she explained why she came to the service.

“Instinctively I guess I can say that I had a feeling that it was a bomb,” she said. “Then when the second one went off, that’s when I knew that we were in trouble, so to speak. So I was with a runner at the time getting ready to discharge once I brought him out of the tent with his wife, I ran to the scene actually.”

Quaranto said she went into a different mode after the explosions as she helped tend to victims.

“It still for me is not quite real yet, so I’m really looking also for personal healing as well as an expression to let people know families that have been affected that their loved ones are not alone,” she said as her cheeks and voice quivered.

A group of women waving American flags applauded as a bus full of marathon volunteers arrived for the service. Rep. Joe Kennedy walked the two blocks to the church.

Liz Desmarais drove from Newburyport with her 14-year-old daughter to attend the service.

“This is one of those moments in life where it is important to put everything else aside and stand together in solidarity and out of respect for the victims of the bombing tragedy,” she said as she waited on the sidewalk. “I’m here because I can be and because not everyone can be.”

Desmarais did not have a ticket, but was 35 people down in the line for extra tickets that volunteers prepared to hand out. She said that even if she and her daughter did not get inside the church, the visit would not be for nothing.

“We’ve come, we’ve paid our respects, we’ve gathered with other people who just want to show that they care and that we remain a strong city with strong values and great resilience,” she said.

Sidra Mahmood of Jamaica Plain, handed out donuts to people standing in line. She said she bought the donuts because she heard people were hungry and knew that most would not be able to enter the church.

Mahmood was a block away from the start of the line and said she remained on Washington Street with the hope that she might get in.

"But even if not, I’m meeting so many people. I guess that serves the purpose of being in a community. Because it could have been any one of us,” she said.

Mahmood was working in her research job at a Massachusetts General Hospital campus and was asked to leave the facility when the news of Monday’s explosions spread. Mahmood, who is Muslim, said she felt it was necessary for people go be near the church today to show her community's support.

“I think that my presence means so much more. Our minister is actually speaking, so that’s why I also came to show support to him,” she said.

Isaura Mendes of Dorchester dressed all in purple, carried a large green flag with the words forgiveness, peace, and justice in white letters.

“It was a horrible thing that has happened for the marathon on Monday, but I also lost two of my sons to street violence,” she said as she stood in line to enter the church. “And I feel hurt because we come from gun to bomb. It’s really tough to see, but we can’t give up and we have to stand straight and we have to support each other and we’re going to be okay.”

Mendes said her daughter ran the 2011 marathon and thought back to that year when she learned of the explosions.

“If someone that you love go run the marathon, you are there to cheer them up and all of a sudden that thing happens. It's really a horrible thing to live with," she said. “I feel sorry for the families that were there that day. and cheer the other family the people who run the marathon because they were doing the right thing and all of a sudden this thing happens and I just pray that they’re going to be okay.”

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.

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