Calling people together in an outdoor civic space comes easily to the young people who brought candles, yards of white muslin and permanent markers of every color to the bandstand on the Boston Common last night. They learned to believe in the transformative power of bringing people together after months spent on the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway in 2011 as part of the Occupy movement.
"Something like what happened at the marathon causes us to be fearful," said one event planner named Rachel, "and the only way to stop fear is love." She knew what to do. She posted the vigil on Facebook and soon saw it listed among several similar gatherings happening around the city.
As the park grew dark and candlelight began to glow from the ground, surrounding the two improvised banners taped to the walkways and covered in messages, the conversation among the 100 or so people gathered together remained hushed. Many hugged or stood in quiet reflection. Some wore the uniform of the Runner —sneakers, athletic clothes, the yellow and blue jackets—to signal their personal connection to the marathon tragedy.
One runner named Walid Sharara spied the vigil from his apartment on the Commons—a refuge it took him many hours to get to when the race ended abruptly and the bag with his belongings (keys, wallet, cell phone) remained with race organizers. During that time he had no way to let his family in Montreal know he was ok, if shaken. He felt very much alone, and therefore compelled to gather with others when he saw the candlelight. He also left a message on the makeshift banner:
"We conquered Heartbreak Hill," he said. "We can conquer this."