Businesses near bombing site reflect on tragedy, look ahead

BOSTON (WWLP) – When the two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon last year shortly before 3 o’clock, the sidewalks of Boylston Street were filled with crowds cheering on the thousands of runners who still hadn’t crossed the finish line. Business owners and workers saw chaos out of their front windows, when what started as a celebration on a sunny Patriot’s Day quickly become a nightmare.

But even the deadly tragedy that day couldn’t destroy the treasured tradition of the Boston Marathon.

“It was just a normal type of day. Then it all changed,” said Chris Loper, manager of the Forum restaurant, located right near the finish line.

Loper said he’ll never forget the way his restaurant staff jumped into action in those two to three minutes, which felt like eternity, that it took police and EMS to get to where the bombs went off near the Boylston Street finish line. Servers and bartenders sprinted with linens and ice, tearing cloth to make tourniquets for the bleeding victims.

“It was amazing to watch. 18, 19-year-old kids doing everything they could to help those who were injured in what was really like a war scene,” Loper said. “Our staff were the only ones here.”

The 12-block area around the finish line was a crime scene, completely blocked off, for 10 days after the bombings. Many of the restaurants and businesses couldn’t open for months afterward. But even the site of this terrible tragedy didn’t keep people away. They came from across Massachusetts and around the world to show their support for Boston.

“We’ve been busy ever since. We’ve had a lot of support and curiosity and we had four months to do the best we could in our business to make people proud to come back in here,” Loper said.

Just a few doors down, at the site of the first bombing, Marathon Sports manager Shane O’Hara has been overwhelmed by that same outpouring and Boston strong spirit.

“If anything, it just put a little black mark on us, a little chip in the armor. But it didn’t stop us. We came right back and we’re bigger and stronger than we were before,” O’Hara said.

There is a sign that still hangs in the running store today, which served as a message to customers until the doors could open again. It reads: “We all stand as one, and we will run again. We are all Boston.”

“Every city can claim they have the best sports fans, including New England. I will guarantee we will have the best running fans, bar none,” O’Hara said.

Forum opened four months to the day after the marathon bombings, with a party featuring a New Orleans brass band fittingly named “Rebirth.” The band played and danced down the sidewalk, from the finish line to the front door.

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