Some spectators came away unscathed physically from the bombings, but not without emotional scars. They wonder why it was their friend who lost her leg and not them. They don't understand why their brother was so badly burned when they were spared.
Daniel Franklin braved the daunting winds and intermittent lashes of rain to witness the flag raising at the marathon finish line that was part of Tuesday's ceremonies. Franklin was on Boylston Street last year and was unharmed when the bombs went off. His instincts told him to hop the barrier along the sidewalk and run from chaos to safety.
Those actions haunt him now, he says.
"I wish I had stopped to help someone," Franklin said. "I wish I did more."
He is not alone. A woman receiving treatment for dehydration in the medical tent wonders if she should have stuck around to help instead of evacuating the tent as requested.
Marty Walsh, our new mayor, spent his 100th day in office at the ceremony recounting a picture he unearthed recently from a community outing in Dorchester. The picture depicted him with his arm draped around a small boy. It was 8-year-old Martin Richard, who will never get to turn 9. His sister Jane lost her leg in the blast, but, Walsh reported, she is playing CYO basketball again.
"Martin would have loved that," Walsh said. "The way he saw the world, anything was possible. All across our city, we are learning that, too."
Boston Strong has been a unifying theme, a force of nature that has come to symbolize everything that is good and right about our city.
But some are stronger than others, and we must never lose sight of that. Healing can be arduous, painful, and the timetable for recovery is divergent and deeply personal.
"My wish," Haslet-Davis said, "is we use this day as not just a day of remembrance but a day of action.
"If anyone is wondering what they can do, what you can do, look around. The people in your community need your support, your time, your guidance."
Survivor Patrick Downes and his wife have undergone 13 reconstructive surgeries between them since the bombings. Both lost parts of their legs last April, and yet, Downes declared Tuesday, he was proud to be a Bostonian "because I'm so proud to be connected to all of you."
The hope, as church bells chimed and mournful bagpipes played, was to provide some closure for a city that has been deeply wounded. The 118th running of the Boston Marathon is just days from now, and race officials are optimistic that by Monday, our city and its survivors can muster the courage to look ahead, not behind.
"You are strong at this broken place," former mayor Tom Menino told those assembled at the ceremonies.
Boston Strong. It is more than a catch phrase, a slogan, a T-shirt.
It is the foundation of a new start.