Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino today announced that parking will be free along Boylston Street and in the Back Bay starting today as the city takes steps to help businesses that were shuttered for nine days while law enforcement investigated the Boston Marathon terror bombing sites.
“Boston is strong and we will support Boylston Strong all weekend long,’’ Menino said in a statement. “To support the efforts of our local businesses through the end of the weekend, the City of Boston is offering free parking at meters on Boylston Street and throughout the entire Back Bay.’’
The city said the meters are “located on all Back Bay streets between Arlington Street and Massachusetts Avenue, as well as those parking meters adjacent to the Public Garden.’’
Earlier today — around 3:35 a.m. — a passing police truck gave the all-clear and Boston police officers began carrying barricades and piling them on the sidewalk.
Just like that, with little fanfare or ceremony, Boylston Street was back open for business and pedestrian traffic began to trickle onto the thoroughfare.
And for the first time since the bombing, MBTA trolleys rumbled to a stop at Copley Station, the large placard reading “Closed for the Marathon’’ removed from the entrance to the Green Line station at last.
In some ways, the rhythm of the street struck familiar tones in the wee hours today, with few cars on the streets other than passing taxis and the occasional delivery trucks. In just a few cafes or convenience stores, employees could be seen bustling inside, readying for the day.
Rosalio Rodriguez, 40, washes windows for many of the businesses on Boylston Street. Just before 4 a.m., he pumped a squeegee over the front windows of the Starbucks located just a few feet away from the second blast. It was a strange feeling to be back on this stretch of the street, Rodriguez said, but he was glad to be back to work.
“I didn’t work all last week,’’ Rodriguez said. “All the stores were closed.’’
The scene was almost entirely rid of the chaos and debris of last week, but a few reminders remained. At The Tannery, a clothing store, the marquee letters spelling out the store’s name still hung askew. Tall boards of wood, painted black, had been placed in front of the restaurant Forum, the site of the second blast. And in front of Marathon Sports, at the spot where the first explosion struck, a crew of about half-dozen worked to refill a large patch of sidewalk with fresh concrete.
A large sign hung in the window, mourning the victims of the explosion, and expressing gratitude to law enforcement officers and first responders. “We all stand as one, and we will run again,’’ the sign read. “We are all Boston. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. We will reopen soon.’’
Three people were killed and 264 were injured in the two blasts that struck at about 2:50 p.m. on April 15. One suspect in the bombing is dead, while the other is recovering from bullet wounds in the hospital and facing federal charges with possible sentences of life imprisonment or even death. The suspects allegedly killed one police officer and seriously injured another late last week before Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was captured.
Some people walked the sidewalk in those first few minutes after Boylston Street reopened just to see it, to come to terms with it, and to pay their respects. One of those people was Lacey Clements of Waltham, who had no particular reason to be in the neighborhood but felt like it was the right thing to do.
“In a weird way, this is like therapy for me,’’ Clements said. “I just wanted to take a look at it, just to see — it’s remarkable.’’
It felt strange to stand in front of the bombing sites, he said, because for the most part, they looked so ordinary, almost exactly the same as they had before Marathon Monday.
“You get a sense that something happened here, but in a way, it’s almost back to normal, or at least a sense of normalcy,’’ Clements said. “It’s like, OK, this is the same as it ever was. This is Copley Square. This is Boston.’’
Jared Simmons, a 36-year-old who lives in the Fenway, also chose to visit the street at about 4:30 a.m., standing in silence outside Marathon Sports with a messenger bag hanging over his shoulder and a “Boston Strong’’ sticker stuck to his baseball cap.
Boylston Street, reopened but desolate in the early-morning hours, gave off an eerie feeling. Passing by the sites of the two explosions, he said, he had an urge to cross to the other side of the street, to distance himself.
“I’m weirded out even walking past,’’ Simmons said. “I don’t think it will be possible to walk by this spot for a very long time and not think of the marathon incident.’’