Conflict & Justice

Boston Moves to Preserve Items Collected at Memorial to Marathon Attack

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Vistors in Boston examine the temporary memorial to the Boston Marathon bombing victims. (Photo: Jonathan Kealing)

Boston's had beautiful weather in the days since the twin explosions that marred the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

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But with the end of this week, rain returns, which has meant archivists and city officials had to move quickly to preserve the hundreds of posters, signs and other paper memorials that have been accumulated in Boston's Copley Square. They contain messages of support in dozens of different languages – expressing solidarity with residents of Boston. They come from places as far away as Australia and Israel.

The posters and signs will be preserved at the City of Boston's archives, in West Roxbury, according to The Boston Globe. There, they'll be stored in special acid-free containers and on acid-free shelves, which will help in their preservation.

Eventually, there's talk of them being housed in a permanent memorial for the marathon attack.

For now, though, the temporary memorial remains, with more durable items, like shoes, hundreds of hats and even teddy bears still on display in the park, where people can see them, add their own and pay their respects. People covered those items with plastic sheeting on Wednesday as the rains rolled in.

All of the paper materials collected by the archivists will remain accessible to the public, according to reports, at the city archives.

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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman. This is The World from Boston. “If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders fields.” The final lines there from the poem “In Flanders Fields” by the Canadian writer, Dr. and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. I read them because we begin today’s program talking about memorials and the question, why are there memorials. Well, McCrae kind of answers that in those lines, basically so you don’t forget the dead and how they died. In a minute we’ll hear the issues Israel wrestles with as they memorialize the many victims of attacks and bombings there. We stay here in Boston first, though, and the decision by the city to slowly dismantle the memorial that has materialized in an impromptu way near the site of the twin bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The World’s Andrea Crossan is there. Andrea, tell about what had been left there at the site, and what remains now.

Andrea Crossan: Marco, where I’m standing there are still flowers everywhere. Some of them have clearly been here for a week or two, some of them are fresh. There are also a number of crosses, candles, and a totally poignant memorial for what happened here in Boston is there are running shoes. We look around the site, there are pairs and pairs and pairs and pairs of running shoes that are draped over top flags, draped over top different signs. There are handwritten notes that are expressing support, stay strong Boston. There are a number of notes written from people in different parts of the world, signs from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Israel. The list goes on and on.

Werman: So these are things that were left by people who knew the victims and just passersby. So why dismantle it?

Crossan: I think that the idea for the city was that they were concerned that so much of this memorial, there were little scraps of paper and notes that people had written, and Marco, the last couple weeks we’ve enjoyed some pleasant weather here in Boston, but it’s been raining today, and there’s concern there’s going to be rain for the next few days. And what they’ve done is they’ve taken, the city archivists have collected a lot of the notes that people left, and they’ve packed them away, and there’s some talk that maybe there could be a permanent memorial at some point down the line. Right now, though, there are still, all the larger items, the stuffed animals, like I said, lots of flowers, lots of running shoes, are still here, but it seems that what has happened is people have draped huge pieces of plastic over top of them so that they’re protected from the weather.

Werman: And where were the items taken, like some of the drawings and posters?

Crossan: Apparently they are being saved in the city’s archive right now. They’re not going to be on display anytime soon, but I think that there is hope that at some point those will be put towards when they actually start discussing a proper memorial for what happened here.

Werman: I’m just wondering, Andrea, did you speak with anyone down there at the site in downtown Boston just about what memorials mean to them? Like why come to any place where horror has occurred in the first place? Any insightful comments?

Crossan: I was speaking to a woman who was actually visiting Boston from France. She was here with her two children, walking around the memorial, and I asked her why she felt it was important for her children to see this. Her response was that she felt that it was important for her children to see how much people can care for each other, not just the pain and the suffering of what happened, but the caring and the outpouring of support after something like this happens.

Werman: Andrea, good to speak with you. Thanks a lot.

Crossan: Thank you, Marco.

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