The beginning strains of “Amazing Grace” filled the air as volunteers passed out candles to the crowd gathered in Somerville City Hall’s courtyard on Thursday night.
The tree lights surrounding the concourse glowed brightly upon hundreds of community members, including many who were dressed in running gear and the official 2013 Boston Marathon colors of yellow and blue. Uniformed servicemen lined the area outside of Somerville High School, providing an atmosphere of protection and solidarity to a community gathered in mourning, support and hope in honor of the victims of Monday’s attack.
“Tonight isn’t about political speeches, or just words,” Somerville mayor Joseph Curtatone said to the crowd. “We gather as a community, looking for a way to support, comfort, pray, grieve and show solidarity . . . as a result of the tragedy of the Boston Marathon.”
Community officials—including Tufts University chaplain Lynn Cooper and former Somerville mayor and congressman Michael Capuano—offered words of encouragement to the Somerville community before opening the stage to anyone who wished to share their story.
“This is a way to reach out and be a community, but not just of Somerville—a community of the world,” said Congressman Capuano. “[The people responsible for the attack] can’t win. You’re here to say to the world that you are part of the bigger, better community, and that if we stand together, evil will not rule this community. Thank you for being part of a greater human world.”
Curtatone spoke about the difficulty he faced when telling his four sons about the attacks. He said that as a parent, and a member of the community, all he can do is impress on his children that there is more good in this world than bad, and that turning to one another is the only way to get through such a traumatic event.
“Like you, I need this night. I need all of you to grieve, support and show solidarity,” Curtatone said.
Community members, 2013 marathon racers, volunteers and runners spoke about how Monday’s events affected them both personally and as members of the community. Scott Abrams, a member of Somerville Road Runners, spoke fondly about the running culture of Boston and how he feels the city will not be shaken.
“For some reason, Boston encourages this reckless behavior [of running marathons],” Abrams said. “I accept who I am. I am a marathoner, and we will not be stopped. We are Boston. And we run.”
Stacey Clarke, a Miami native, encouraged the community to connect with something greater than themselves and to find hope in light of this tragedy. “God is not unacquainted with our pain, for he is a man of sorrows,” she said. “[It’s as if he says] You don’t know how you’re going to get through this, but I do.”
Jamie Bergstein, who ran in the Boston Marathon for the first time this year and was stopped after 24 miles, said it is amazing for her to see the good that has shone through in the darkness of what happened.
“Even though there are bad people in this world, the kindness of strangers is not lost on me,” she said.
During the course of the night, the crowd also heard renditions by Tufts University a cappella group S-Factor and by bagpiper Ed O’Callaghan. As the vigil came to an end, the crowd joined together in singing the national anthem. Curtatone addressed the crowd once more before the community dispersed.
“God bless you all, the United States of America and this community,” he said.