Thousands pay tribute in Boston

"I've never, never, never witnessed a tribute like I've heard today," Biden said. "Jill and I are honored to be asked back. Let me say to those survivors, my God you have survived and soared. ... I mean it sincerely, just to hear each of you speak, you are truly inspiring. I've never heard anything so beautiful as what all of you just said."

While noting Boston's strength over the past year, Biden reminded the city that it is not alone and that the rest of America is there in support. At the same time, Biden said, Boston has set an example for the country to live by.

"You are the face of America's resolve," he said.

Biden also discussed the state of terrorism and the goals of the "twisted, cowardly" individuals who choose to engage in such acts.

"It infuriates them that we refuse to bend, refuse to change, refuse to yield to fear," Biden said, the volume of his voice increasing.

Just before the delegation made its way to the finish line and the scene of such horror one year earlier, Biden helped Bostonians reclaim a precious piece of land.

"We own the finish line," he said.

As rain fell and wind blew through the Back Bay, hundreds left the convention center and strolled under umbrellas toward the finish line to help reclaim that territory. With law enforcement officials lining Boylston Street and the stands in front of the Boston Public Library packed, relatives of victims emerged -- followed by Menino, Biden, Walsh, Patrick and Grilk -- and took spots in front of the finish line.

There, they stood at attention in the rain to take in a rendition of "God Bless America" by noted tenor Ronan Tynan. Then came a moment of silence and bells tolled from the Old South Church, just steps from the finish line. An American flag was pulled skyward as the crowd sang the national anthem. MBTA transit police officer Richard Donohue Jr. helped raise the flag high above what Menino labeled as "hallowed ground."

Indeed, a year removed from the unthinkable, there was a rising.

Tony Lee is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

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