Business owners brace for emotional toll of Marathon

By Maria Cramer Boston Globe

On April 15, a procession of hundreds — including survivors of the Boston Marathon bomb attacks, their families, and those who tended to the wounded — will walk down Boylston Street to the Marathon finish line in front of the Boston Public Library.

Flanked by members of a color guard, they will watch as the governor and the mayor lay two wreaths, one at each of the sites where the bombs went off.

The American flag, the same one that flew over the grandstand last year, will be raised. A moment of silence will follow.

Then, at 2:49 p.m., at the same moment the first bomb exploded, churches throughout Boston will toll their bells at once, engulfing the city in the sounds of mourning and rebirth.

“That will be our moment, when we will all begin to start anew,” Dusty Rhodes, an organizer of the commemoration, told a hushed group of business owners in a ballroom at the Back Bay Hilton hotel.

“That will be Boston’s moment to tell the world that we are remembering and we will recover,” Rhodes said.

At least 100 business owners and managers attended the meeting at the Hilton Friday morning, which was hosted by police officials and event organizers, to hear how increased security for the Boston Marathon on April 21 could affect their stores and restaurants. But Rhodes’s description of the tribute planned on the first anniversary of the bomb attacks that killed three people and injured more than 260 reminded them of what may be the hardest part of running a business that day: dealing with the psychological toll on them and their workers.

“We want it to be a normal day, like it was two years ago, but we know it can’t be,” said Colin Peddie, the owner of Marathon Sports on Boylston Street, where one of the bombs blew out store windows. “There is going to be a lot of anxiety that day. My biggest concern is for my staff. … How are they going to respond to it and feel it?”

The memorial tribute six days before the 2014 Marathon will start with a 90-minute ceremony at the Hynes Convention Center. A jumbo-sized monitor will be set up on Boylston and Exeter streets so the public can watch the event, which is invitation-only.

About 2,000 people — including bombing survivors, their families, and the families of those who died — have been invited, including the family of Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China killed in the attacks. Her parents are expected to fly in for the ceremony and then walk in the procession.

The significance of this year’s Marathon is expected to draw at least 1 million people to the route on race day, and Boylston Street is where police expect the largest crowds. To deal with the crowds, police have drafted security plans that they describe as fluid and subject to change.

But officials have decided to close down Newbury Street and part of Huntington Avenue to cars on April 21 so that the thoroughfares can be used as pedestrian walkways to lighten the crowds on Boylston Street. There, police plan to have uniformed and undercover patrols, along with bomb-sniffing dogs, Police Commissioner William Evans told those gathered at the hotel Friday.

“Black labs,” he said, trying to assure business owners that the goal of the department’s security plan is to be as unintimidating as possible, down to the type of canines that will be used.

Spectators will not be patted down unless an officer believes someone looks suspicious, Evans said.

Spectators trying to get on Boylston Street will not be scanned with security wands, but if police see crowds becoming too thick, those walking on side streets toward Boylston may be turned away by officers stationed at metal barriers placed at intersections.

Some business owners said they want to take their own additional security measures. Tony Castagnozzi, owner of the Rattlesnake Bar and Grill, said he plans to have six security guards working that day, two more than usual, checking out customers with backpacks.

Peddie said he wants to find out whether he can get a police detail for his store. He said he pictures himself on Marathon Monday, standing at the finish line, eyeing spectators warily.

“I’m going to be hyperaware of everything,” he said. “That takes some of the fun out of it. You can’t relax.”

Backpacks will not be prohibited, but police are urging spectators to bring as little as possible to avoid having bags searched by officers.

Runners have been told they cannot bring backpacks or bags to Hopkinton, where the race begins. They will have to leave their belongings in clear plastic bags at pavilions that will be set up on Boston Common.

Runners will then be screened by security and board buses that will line Tremont Street starting at 5 a.m.

Then Tremont Street will be closed from Court Street to Boylston Street until 10 a.m., when the last of the 600 buses has left for Hopkinton.

The MBTA is planning to close Arlington Street Station for the entire day to make room for a fleet of ambulances that will be near the finish line.

Parking garages around Boylston Street could suffer that day because of the multiple road closings, and business owners said they will have to coordinate with vendors who are planning to make deliveries during scheduled street closings.

Few business owners expressed complaints during the meeting.

Many said they were grateful for the information, particularly an offer by city officials to bring in trauma therapists to talk to employees feeling anxious about the Marathon.

Castagnozzi said the meeting made him feel connected to the other business owners whose shops and bars were at the epicenter of the attacks.

Listening to Rhodes describe the procession that will precede Marathon Monday gave him goosebumps, said Castagnozzi.

“If you listened to that and didn’t feel anything — ” he said, trailing off.

This entry was posted in 9/11 Community. Bookmark the permalink.