Today is the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260. It brings back painful memories for an entire region and it focuses on the plans to protect the runners and spectators at this year’s Marathon six days from now.
It is still a shock that a terrorist attack would occur on Marathon Monday, a festive event in Massachusetts that draws thousands of participants from around the world, and millions of spectators, who line a road race course that weaves 26 miles from leafy Hopkinton Green to a finish line just in front of the Boston Public Library.
"It is one of the most celebratory moments every year in Massachusetts. Such a great day and to have that be tarnished," said Steve Buoniconti.
Buoniconti of West Springfield, one of hundreds of marathon runners last year from western Massachusetts, had crossed the Boylston Street finish line and was about two blocks away when the first bomb exploded at 2:49 pm.
" I was walking on the Common to my car and there was not much panic until I got to near the Statehouse and people started saying there had been a couple of explosions and they thought it was terrorist. Right away that is what people thought."
The horror of the day hit Buoniconti as he headed out of the city and drove past Massachusetts General Hospital.
" There were police and emergency vehicles taking people in. You could see how vivid and how real it was."
A back injury prevented Buoniconti from training for this year’s marathon, but he said if he was able to he would run next week.
" A lot of people are going to run again and a lot for the first time. That pride of what Boston means and what the Marathon means."
Results of a Western New England University Poll released last week found 73 percent of Massachusetts residents believe the terrorist attack changed the city of Boston in a lasting way. Of those who said the bombings altered the city, 62 percent said the change was for the better. University polling director Tim Vercellotti said people mentioned a surge in civic pride and a feeling of unity that followed the bombings.
" People would talk about the Boston Strong campaign and a few brought up the World Series and the Red Sox victory as a way of healing the city and bringing it back."
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces trial on charges that he and his brother set off the bombs. Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, died following a shootout with police a few days after the bombing. The WNEU survey found the state evenly divided over whether Tsarnaev should get life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.
U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz is in charge of the prosecution of Tsarnaev on federal terrorism charges. The trial is currently scheduled to begin Nov. 3rd
" This case will be incredibly challenging, but all I can say is we are working hard to prepare. All parties are working hard to make sure justice is done," said Ortiz.
Looking ahead to this year’s Boston Marathon on April 21st ,the WNEU poll found 53 percent said they were confident and 38 percent said they were somewhat confident law enforcement can keep this year’s event safe from violence.
Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, who is now a security consultant, said the people who have put together the public safety plans for this year’s marathon have done an exceptional job.
"They've done exactly what needs to be done to find a balance between a safe event and a police state. You don't want peole afraid to come into the city and I think they've done a great job putting it together."
The beefed-up security includes more than 3,500 police officers (more than double last year’s number), more security cameras, bomb-sniffing dogs, and restrictions on the types of bags spectators and runners can bring.