On Monday, the bombs had exploded just a half-block before Brian Ladley crossed the Marathon finish line. But, feeling lucky to be alive, he was out at 7 a.m. Thursday to join the line at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, hoping to hear President Barack Obama speak at an interfaith service to honor the victims. The event was still hours away, but when tickets ran out, authorities spotted his marathon jacket and plucked him and some other runners out of line to watch the service in a nearby school auditorium.
“If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us ... it should be pretty clear right now that they picked the wrong city to do it,” Obama told the crowd of more than 2,000 inside the church. “We may be momentarily knocked off our feet. But we’ll pick ourselves up. We’ll keep going. We will finish the race.”
After it ended, Ladley found himself shaking hands with the president, too awestruck to remember their conversation. But what meant the most was the camaraderie of the crowd.
“It was wonderful to have a moment with other runners and be able to share our stories,” he said.
Less than a mile away, 85-year-old Mary O’Kane strained at the bell ropes in the steeple of historic Arlington Street Church, imagining the sounds spreading a healing across her city — and the land. Sprinkled amid hymns like “Amazing Grace” and “A Mighty Fortress,” patriotic tunes like “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” wafted down from the 199-foot steeple and over Boston Common across the street.
“I feel joyful. I feel worshipful. I feel glad to be alive,” she said. The city’s response to the bombing had revealed its strength and brotherhood, attributes she was certain would carry it through. But her belief in Boston was tinged with sadness. Now she understood a little bit about how New Yorkers who experienced 9⁄11 must feel.