Emotions following Monday's bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon have gone from fear to incredulity, numbness and sadness.
The morning after the explosion, people began congregating at the police barrier next to the Arlington T station, at the corner of Arlington and Boylston streets. On one side of the perimeter, it was desolate, save some debris. Discarded plastic water bottles and crumpled shiny foil blankets that runners would use to keep warm littered the street here and there.
On the other side, a clump of onlookers gathered. There were runners and people who work in the area, people just coming by taking pictures, trying to be with other people, sharing impressions, and talking about where they were at the time of the blast.
Val Mattna, who traveled from North Carolina to Boston to run in the marathon, was gazing over the barrier at the empty stretch of Boylston Street. She says she was scared at first, but that has given way to numbness and an unsettled feeling.
"It’s just eerie," Mattna said. "We just walked down Newbury street. Nothing’s open. And it’s like everyone just left. We walked by a restaurant and you could see everybody’s dinner still sitting there. They just cleared everyone out so quickly. Usually events like this, you can’t even tell a marathon happened the day before. And it’s just like everything just stopped, because it did."
A construction worker from Malden who would only be identified as Tony was staring at a small makeshift memorial of flowers, and talking to his friend.
"It’s pretty dead," Tony said. "It’s like, what’s the word I’m looking for? Yeah, it’s like a ghost town."
"It’s horrible what happened," Tony added. "Stuff like that shouldn’t be happening, especially not on American soil."
"Yeah, it’s unnecessary, just ridiculous," Tony's friend replied. It’s sad. Very sad."
"It’s sad for the families of the three people who passed away," Tony said. "Especially the 8-year-old."
An Au Bon Pain café a block away from the police perimeter, became the default community gathering place, by virtue of the fact it was the only breakfast place open and it has free wifi.
Inside, runners struck up conversations with each other and wondered if it was OK to talk about their finish times. They spoke about whether they wanted to return to the Boston Marathon again next year and how marathon officials would figure out who would qualify, since the race was cut tragically short.
Around lunch time, the streets began to fill up. St. Paul’s Cathedral on Boston Common held a prayer vigil so people could mourn the victims and have a place to express their sadness.
Bob Griener was one of the organizers.
"I think the service is the ending to what we’ve been feeling," Griener said. "Because it’s been kind of subdued, but happy that people are safe. And just the sorrow for the violence, and the you know, the young boy that was killed, and just in need in some way to express that. Not just individually but in a community."
A hundred or so people gathered inside the cathedral. Local clergy spoke about evil and forgiveness. And then the organist rang a chime to mark a moment of silence.
"The moment of silence … it was long, it was heavy, it was deep and that really struck me," said Jason Gray of Cambridge.
"That was really important."
"I just let my mind go towards thoughts about yesterday, about people I knew who were in the area, about people who I knew who reached out to me to make sure I was OK," he said. "I just kinda let my mind go, and for me, that was really cathartic."
In the next few hours, the public began to learn more about the fate of the victims and their stories. The 8-year-old boy from Dorchester, the 29-year-old restaurant manager, the Boston University graduate student.
Now, details of the investigation are emerging and the public will focus more on how and why this happened. In the days ahead, the shock of the marathon blasts will reverberate as our community tries to make sense of the events.