The mood was palpably somber today inside Boston's Cathedral of The Holy Cross, where President Barack Obama joined local religious and political leaders to honor the victims of Monday's devastating terror attack, but as the doors opened and sunlight flooded into the packed church, mourners were greeted by throngs of roused supporters, lining Washington Street to relay a clear and strong message: We are one Boston.
"I wanted to be here... to be in a moment of history," said Tara Feely, who arrived outside the cathedral at 4:30 a.m. "We were the first ten people who came in."
Brenda Thordarson stood nearby, "You got here at four?" she asked. "We got here at (7 a.m.)" Thordarson was jovial, like many standing on the Cathedral steps after the service wrapped up at noon. "I thought (Obama's remarks) were good, and appropriate," she said. Thordarson came alone, but in a twist of circumstance emblematic of the unity surrounding Monday's tragedy, she left with two "new friends," with whom she planned to have lunch.
Judith Erdman stood on her toes atop the cathedral steps, snapping photographs of Senator Elizabeth Warren as she walked down Washington Street, waving at the crowd.
"I came to have solidarity with the Boston people, with the runners, their families, the first responders... I wanted to be a part of coming together to pray for peace, to pray for justice, whatever that looks like," said Erdman, who lives down the street from the cathedral. "(The service) really gladdened the hearts of the people, and give hope. I think that we have that sort of spirit here in Boston all the time but the people who were visiting got to witness that. I think it was such a beautiful and wonderful and hopeful service."
Across the street, 23-year-old Robert Wheeler hustled through a crowded sidewalk wearing a blue and yellow Boston Athletic Association jacket, on his way to see a man whose leg he helped save on that fateful Monday afternoon.
"I took my shirt off and was able to wrap it around his leg and keep pressure on it. Another gentleman helped to keep pressure on it as well. It all happened so fast," said Wheeler, a student at Fitchburg State University and a former Southie resident. It was going to be their first meeting since the explosion, so it was fitting it would happen outside today's memorial service.
“I think the right things were said; Boston united. It wasn’t just Bostonians. It was Americans and it was foreigners," said Wheeler, who admitted he has "anger about what happened."
"But when it comes down to it, the day wasn’t about that. There was one guy who did a horrible deed and there were thousands who did the right thing and that’s what it’s about," he said.
Like hundreds gathered outside the cathedral today, lifelong Boston resident Mac Mooney was unable to make it into the service. Instead, he and his wife and young daughter held a sign to sum up their support: "Boston, you're our home."
"The city could be empty, but the spirit would still be here. It's good to see the people coming out and showing their support. It's inspiring. It's resilient. It's a testimony to everything that Massachusetts is about."