Just over 18 months ago, Mayor Thomas Menino led the city through the Boston Marathon bombings.
He had just announced he wouldn’t seek re-election because of health reasons, when another health scare landed him in the hospital.
In the last year of Menino’s job as Boston’s mayor, the unthinkable happened: a terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon finish line.
“Nobody expected this to happen in Boston, these bombs,” Menino said.
Three people died in the bombing, an MIT police officer was killed days later, and hundreds more were wounded, many losing limbs. The hurt was felt far and wide.
“We’re heartsick for what happened here,” said one man.
“It’s so different when it’s so close to your home,” a woman said.
When the explosions and chaos broke out on Boylston Street, the mayor wish in the hospital, recovering from surgery.
“My security ran into my room and said to me, ‘Mayor, a bomb just went off at the finish line.’ And then I said, ‘I have to get out of here,'” he said.
“So I got dressed, the nurses helped me, and I went to the first press conference at 5 o’clock on that night,” he said.
“My condolences and our prayers to the families involved in this explosion,” he said at that news conference.
Even though he was ill himself, the mayor became the face of Boston’s strength and determination.
At a cathedral service, the mayor rose from his wheelchair and gave a speech that could be heard as a rallying cry.
“Nothing can defeat the heart of this city. Nothing,” he said.
People lined up for blocks, hoping to get in.
“There are people out here that are in mourning, even though it’s not their loss nor their loved ones,” said one woman.
The president, the governor, the mayor, and first responders offered up their prayers for the healing to begin.
“It gives us even more strength to say prayer after prayer for the victims still recovering at the hospitals, at home. It gives us strength to say goodbye,” said Menino.
While the service was held, it was not known who the bombing suspects were. Unease and fear gripped Boston.
“My mind was thinking about how can I make sure the people know that we’re in charge of the city keep calm. That’s why I did all those events. I was in a wheelchair, but I want to get out there and show people I was as strong as they were,” he said.
Then, a breakthrough came.
The FBI released surveillance video of the suspects. Within hours, a shoot-out in Watertown left one suspect dead, the other fleeing, and the city locked down.
“I had faith in the police department of Boston, that they would find him and get him and they did. And it came across the police radio. It said, ‘Mayor, we got the suspect,'” Menino said.
“You did a great job. The people of Boston are proud of you, especially the Mayor of Boston is very proud of what you’ve done. Thanks a lot, guys,” he told officers on the radio.
“We did if for you, boss,” came the response.
After a day of fear, people let loose.
“The thing that impressed me the most afterwards was how I drove out of Watertown, and people were on the street corners singing ‘God Bless America’ raising the American flag,” Menino said.
Celebrations erupted from Watertown to Boston Common.
“The Common is filled with people just cheering and singing. Then, my police commission calls me and says, ‘Mayor, the students are all demonstrating, what should we do?’ I says hey, we kept them inside for 12 hours, let them have a good time, enjoy themselves,” he said.
The next day at Fenway Park, a Red Sox game had Neil Diamond, the team, and fans giving thanks to the people that restored Boston.
“We want to thank you, Mayor Menino,” David Ortiz said.
“We know that everything’s safe, and Boston’s going to be Boston again,” said a young fan.
On that same baseball diamond a year later, Mayor Menino led a new mayor out to pay tribute once again to the bombing victims and survivors – the restoration complete. At a prayer service, Menino stood firm to always remember the lives lost.
“We will stand with you, remember with you, we will never forget what this day means to you, I will never forget,” he said. “This day will always be hard, but this place will always be strong. Because we gather here today to stand for the people in the city we love, with all of our hearts.”
Later, outside on Boylston Street, a flag was raised, the national anthem sung, and Mayor Menino was no longer the mayor, but a regular citizen with a heart as big as the city.