After a week of bedlam, Boston residents savor simple things

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BOSTON -- The proud but weary residents of this metropolitan area let out a collective exhale of relief and gratitude Saturday, marking the end of an intense week of terrifying events that shook this community to its core, but never broke it.

And as people, families and neighbors emerged from a frightful day of being locked indoors while swarms of public safety officers executed a historic manhunt on Friday, there was beauty in anything that seemed normal again.

"It's nice just to be able to walk outside," said Judith Carpenter, 57, who strolled under the blooming magnolia trees along Commonwealth Avenue in the city's Back Bay neighborhood, just two streets away from the sight of Monday's horrific twin bombings near the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon.

Since the explosions, which killed three people and injured at least 170 runners and spectators, through Friday's terrifying lockdown and manhunt that resulted in the capture of one suspect and the fatal shooting of the second, many residents of this region were finally able to pause Saturday and reflect on the extreme emotions they experienced all week.

"They say people here can be pretty tough, and I guess that's true," said Mario Garcia, 27, who came to Boston more than 10 years ago from his native Guatemala. "But this was a really hard week, even for Boston. We weren't sure how this was going to end."

For many, the 117th Boston Marathon didn't really end until approximately 8:45 p.m. on Friday night, when police announced that the suspect they were seeking, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a Cambridge resident, was captured on a blood-stained boat sitting in a backyard in Watertown, a neighboring suburb.

The news -- and the immediate sense of relief that swept across neighborhoods -- sparked spontaneous and jubilant celebrations across the city. In a scene reminiscent of Monday's race, cheering residents lined Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown as exhausted but smiling law enforcement officers passed on foot or in armored vehicles.

Even later that evening, grateful residents streamed back into the streets of Boston. They ambled into open pubs, ready to lift a pint in memory of the victims of the week's events and to toast those who had sacrificed for their safety.

After engaging in a last fierce gunfight with law enforcement agents before his capture, a seriously wounded Mr. Tsarnaev was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. It was the same hospital where his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, the other suspect, was pronounced dead early Friday following the first midnight gun battle with authorities on the streets of Watertown.

Saturday morning, those same streets were again teeming with normal traffic and Boston's notoriously aggressive drivers were back on the road, though perhaps a little more relaxed. The areas where police had taken over for staging areas in front of Watertown's Arsenal Mall once again belonged to shoppers.

Three of Boston's sports teams returned to normal play as both the Bruins and the Red Sox -- both of whom had canceled games on Friday -- were back in action Saturday and the Celtics took on the Knicks in a playoff game in New York.

In a nod to the week's tragic events, the Old Towne Team set aside their customary "Red Sox" home uniforms for special white jerseys that said, simply, "Boston." Singer Neil Diamond showed up in person to lead fans in a special rendition of "Sweet Caroline," the Fenway Park anthem.

Not everything was back to normal yet. The police barriers along Boylston Street -- the final leg of the marathon course toward the Finish Line in Copley Square -- were still up and a silent reminder of the week's historic hurt. A slight dusting of the street could still be seen where the deadly explosions occurred, and a bright orange tent marked the site where investigators were examining debris for evidence.

At the corner of Boylston and Hereford streets, solemn crowds paused before the candles, flowers, pictures and signs of support that were placed on the ground in memory of the week's victims, including new photos of Sean Collier, a 26-year-old MIT police officer allegedly killed by the suspects, and Richard Donohue, a transit cop who was wounded during the first gunfight. Some visitors were drawn to tears.

But nearly everywhere else across this region, people engaged in the mundane and the ordinary and seemed perfectly happy to be doing so.

Perhaps most fittingly, there appeared to be joggers everywhere, especially along both sides of the Charles River, which runs through many of the communities that a day earlier had been under a government-ordered lockdown.

Even after all of the pain, grief and fright of the week, Boston is still a place where people love to run. It's what helps them feel normal.

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Richard Chacon is a former Boston Globe writer and editor.


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