Boston's healing doesn't come easy

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BOSTON -- The milestones are absolute, but the emotions are not.

It has been a year since our city came under siege on our treasured Patriots Day, during our marathon, a joyous confluence of elite international athletes and spirited amateur runners, beloved for its quirkiness and its homespun charm.

It was all blown to pieces before our horrified eyes, an act of unspeakable violence that was inexplicable, unprovoked.

Since that day last April, we have attempted to reclaim the tattered remains of our innocence and contemplate how to make this city whole again.

There is no foolproof manual for closure. As Liz Walker, pastor at the Roxbury Presbyterian Church so eloquently explained Tuesday, "Grief is that uneasy perch where the heart is forced to rest."

On Tuesday, the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, the city held a remembrance ceremony mourning those who were killed, honoring those who were wounded, and celebrating those who selflessly assisted the victims. First responders, police officers and firefighters were introduced in unison to thunderous, grateful applause.

Many survivors attended the moving event, each with their own narrative and their own arc of healing.

For Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a ballroom dancer who lost part of her leg in the blast, the mere mention of suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev is untenable. She walked off the set of "Meet the Press" when NBC failed to respect her wishes not to query her on the men who allegedly planted the bombs.

Haslet-Davis explained Tuesday that her husband, Adam Davis, came home unscathed after fighting for his country in Afghanistan. The shrapnel embedded in his leg came from a booby-trapped backpack strategically placed along the marathon route.

How do we make sense of this? We can't. The victims of the bombings were not known to their alleged attackers. They were random bystanders whose lives were forever changed because of chance.

As Haslet-Davis pointed out, "Our survivor community is not something any of us chose to be a part of, yet that's what we are -- a community."

That community has learned to embrace the smallest of steps toward normalcy -- a trip to the restroom without using the handicapped-accessible stall, navigating cobblestones without tripping, enduring the crackle of fireworks without wincing. Many survivors have revisited the scene of the crime on multiple occasions, boldly and defiantly diluting the shock and horror of a day they will never forget.

Others have stayed away, still hurting, still healing, unwilling or unable to confront a moment that haunts them in ways they never could have imagined.

We marvel at the gentle grace and dignity of those who have learned to navigate their prostheses, who withstand the relentless ringing from their damaged eardrums, who ward off the nightmares with counseling and support groups and fundraising goals to keep them distracted.

They endure, and we celebrate their resolve. We offer our hand and pray they will grasp it.

"There are no strangers here," Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick noted.

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