Bostonians marked the second anniversary of the marathon bombing Wednesday, all while awaiting the sentencing phase of convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to begin. The jury must decide on death or life in prison — a fact that hung over the day's events.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Church bells in Boston today.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHURCH BELL RINGING)
CORNISH: That sound followed a moment of silence which marked the time bombs exploded two years ago at the Boston Marathon finish line. Three people were killed and hundreds more were injured in the blast. As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, today's anniversary was marked by solemn ceremonies at the finish line.
TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Nine-year-old Jane Richard stood this morning right where she did two years ago when the second bomb blew off her leg and killed her brother who was 8. Wearing a prosthetic leg and cowboy boots, she helped unveil a new banner to honor those killed and injured.
JEFF BAUMAN: Hard day for everybody, you know?
SMITH: Jeff Bauman, who lost both his legs in the blast, was also there.
BAUMAN: I'm thankful that I'm here and that I got to, you know, live out and live the rest of my life - you know, just thankful 'cause they're not here anymore.
SMITH: Bauman embraced the man who helped save his life, Carlos Arredondo. He was the man in the iconic picture wearing a white cowboy hat pushing Bauman's wheelchair from the blast. Arredondo stood with his wife, Melinda, at the site, literally shaking with emotion.
CARLOS ARREDONDO: Oh, my goodness. It's just a lot of memories and, you know, being anxious just being here - it's just very scary.
MELINDA ARREDONDO: We've had trouble sleeping, and we've been - both of us have been very anxious since the beginning of the week.
SMITH: The place may be disturbing, they say, but the people -hugely comforting - a sentiment echoed by many survivors.
ANNETTE EMERSON: We're together. We vowed we'd be together.
MARY MCMANNUS: I know, we made it together.
EMERSON: We did, we made it together.
MCMANNUS: Took a while.
SMITH: Annette Emerson embraced several members of what she calls her new family, including Mary McMannus.
EMERSON: We're a family.
MCMANNUS: A survivor family.
SCOTT WEISSBERG: The survivor family.
MCMANNUS: Yes, and with family we can be ourselves and no apologies. We can cry, we can laugh - I know my friends joke and they say oh, can you say that again? I'm having a brain injury moment.
EMERSON: I have them all the time.
SMITH: At two years out, their laughs are signs of progress. But Emerson and Scott Weissberg, a runner who was hurt by the first bomb, say they're still not close to being beyond what happened.
WEISSBERG: It's a little early for it.
EMERSON: I'm not ready - I've just got a lot more healing.
SMITH: One of the hardest parts, they say, is making peace with all that's forever changed.
WEISSBERG: It's challenging. I'm a physician. I mean, I had a thriving practice, and I'm learning to deal with my issues with my brain injury, and there's a lot of ups and downs, and it's going to take time.
EMERSON: That's the worst part of it. Some days I don't even want to see anybody. I close the doors...
WEISSBERG: But today is a big up.
EMERSON: ...Don't touch me, don't look at me, don't talk to me.
MCMANNUS: Today is a huge up, Scott, oh, my gosh.
SMITH: The city proclaimed today the first annual One Boston Day. Mayor Marty Walsh called for a day of community service to continue what he calls the kindness and resilience that was shown after the bombing.
MAYOR MARTY WALSH: You know, after somebody attacks us as a city, we turn it into a positive. Our response isn't by violence. Our response is by turning it around and doing something positive.
SMITH: Walsh concedes it's a little harder to turn the corner with the Boston bombers still awaiting sentencing. Survivors like Emerson agree.
EMERSON: I wish he had been finished. I need to put that part behind me, yes. I just want him gone.
SMITH: Emerson says it helped to see the defendant at least convicted already. She says going to the trial allowed her to take a big step forward.
EMERSON: I had to physically see him and know he wasn't going to get me 'cause I was just scared. I just kept seeing him in my dreams chasing me.
SMITH: Sentencing begins next week for the Boston bomber. He'll get either the death penalty or life in prison with no parole. Either way, many survivors say it'll be another big milestone in their healing. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.