Bombing survivors told they're the face of America's resolve

A bomb squad member inspects an object after a detonation at the finish line. Photo / AP
A bomb squad member inspects an object after a detonation at the finish line. Photo / AP

A few hundred metres from the finish line on Boylston St, a little girl with a prosthetic leg stood with one hand over her heart.

Jane Richard is now 8 years old, the same age her brother Martin was a year ago when the family came to cheer runners through the final metres.

The bomb killed Martin, a smiling, gap-toothed boy who once drew a sign in school that read: "No more hurting people. Peace."

The same explosion tore off Jane's leg and left their mother, Denise, blind in one eye. Their father, Bill, needed two operations to repair ear drums burst by the blast. Only their elder brother, 11-year-old Henry, escaped unhurt. Yesterday, the family returned to the reclaim the scene of the tragedy. "A day doesn't pass when we don't cry over the loss of Martin, but we also laugh when we think about him, which feels like the right way to remember a little boy with a zest for life and a caring heart," a family statement said.

Bostonians were back in Boylston St to reflect on the year since the attacks in which bombs in pressure cookers and carried in backpacks killed four people and wounded more than 260.

Joe Biden, the US Vice-President, led a moment of silence at the finish line outside the city library, where the viewing stands were already built ahead of next week's 118th Boston marathon. "You have become the face of America's resolve - not unlike what happened after 9/11 - for the whole world to see," Biden said.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said: "Today, we recognise the incredible courage and leadership of so many Bostonians in the wake of unspeakable tragedy. And we offer our deepest gratitude to the courageous firefighters, police officers, medical professionals, runners and spectators who, in an instant, displayed the spirit Boston was built on - perseverance, freedom and love."

In the evening, after the tributes were over and most people had left, a man behaving suspiciously near the finish line dropped a backpack containing a rice cooker, police said. The suspect, identified as Kevin Edson, 25, who walked barefoot in a street in pouring rain, was taken into custody and was being charged with possession of a hoax device and disturbing the peace, Police Superintendent Randall Halstead said. The backpack was blown up by the bomb squad as a precaution as was a second unattended backpack nearby.

Boston's global reputation as a city of history sometimes obscures the reality that it is a small, intimate place by American standards and few of its 600,000 residents were untouched by last year's attack.

Vanderlei DeSouza was on the second floor of 755 Boylston St and barely heard the first explosion a few hundred metres away. But when he came to his lobby in the moments after the second blast, he found carnage. "Boston is back but it's also different," he said. "I think people care more about each other now, they look out for each other."

- AP, AFP

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