Thousands pay tribute in Boston

"I want you to hear this solemn promise," he began. "When the lights are dim, know that our support and love for you will never waver. Whatever you have to do to recover and carry on, know that the people of Boston and I are right there by your side."

Long before the ceremonies began, acts of remembrance took place. Wreathes were laid where the bombs went off on Boylston Street, with family members of those lost in the blasts taking part. Throughout the day, representatives of law enforcement units from around the state took turns flanking the wreathes.

Twenty-six miles away and several hours earlier, the Norden brothers, Paul and J.P., who both lost their right legs in the second explosion, began a relay march to the city with friends and family. They made stops along the way to say hello to onlookers and reconnect with those who have helped them recover.

Others who were injured graced the stage at the convention center, providing some of the more poignant words of the two-hour event. First up was Patrick Downes, who lost his left leg in the attacks -- as did his wife.

Downes discussed the "humbling" degree of love that he and fellow survivors have received over the past year. He said he would not wish the trials of recovery on anyone, but he sees merit in the triumphs.

"We do wish that all of you, at some point in your lives, feel as loved as we have felt over this last year," Downes said.

He also took comfort in knowing, even if only in spirit, the four "guardian angels" that were lost a year ago.

"We will carry them in our hearts," he said. "To their families, know that you will never be alone. We remember those who died as pieces of us. The intellectual charm of Lingzi. Sean's commitment to justice. Krystle's infectious smile. And the childhood charm of Martin. We will choose to think of them not in association with hate, but forever connected to our commitment to peace.

"Peace. That will be their lasting message to us."

Downes provided a fitting summation of what many have learned about Boston in the past 365 days.

"We no longer have to think philosophically about the compassion of the human spirit," he said. "It is right here in the city of Boston."

Survivor David Yepez and his father, Luis, thanked the first responders. Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dancer who has made headlines for returning to her craft with a prosthetic leg, reminded the masses to enjoy every second with their loved ones.

"Something in your life, in anyone's life, can go horrifically, terribly wrong in a matter of seconds," she said. "Yet it is up to us to make every single second count after, because believe me, they do."

Mayor Marty Walsh said he recently was going through old pictures when he came upon some from a neighborhood gathering he hosted at his Dorchester home a few years ago. In the background of one was the smiling face of Martin Richard. Walsh said it stopped him cold but also provided a reminder of the resilience of the Richard family, as well as those of others who lost relatives and friends.

Gov. Deval Patrick discussed the community formed through the events and aftermath of April 15, 2013.

"There are no strangers here," Patrick said.

Finally, Vice President Joe Biden took the stage, speaking slowly at first.

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