Six months ago, a thoughtless tragedy threatened the city’s resilience. The Boston Marathon is not just an event, but rather a universal symbol of strength. Roughly 27,000 runners from around the world commit to pushing themselves for 26.2 miles, while 500,000 spectators stand by to cheer them on. The tradition is woven into the fabric of our community.
On April 15, 2013, bombings at the marathon finish line aimed to destroy that fabric, and a team at Northeastern University is now inviting individuals to strengthen it.
Our Marathon, a comprehensive, crowd-sourced digital archive of the Boston Marathon bombings, is hosting an exhibit Tuesday to commemorate the event’s six-month anniversary. The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, will feature photos, videos and stories from the archive, as well as a display of items originally placed at the Copley Square Memorial, on loan from the Boston City Archives. From 1 to 8 p.m. in Northeastern’s Snell Library, attendees will have the opportunity to submit their written and oral reflections to the archive on-site.
“We’re six months out, and there’s a lot that still needs to be captured,” says Ryan Cordell, an assistant professor at Northeastern who’s spearheading Our Marathon alongside Professor Elizabeth Maddock Dillon. “There’s still a lot more work that needs to be done for the community. We don’t want to let these stories fade away before they can be captured and saved for posterity.”
In the days following the Boston Marathon, Dillon noticed all of her students had stories they wanted to tell, according to Cordell, whether of where they were that day, if they had to evacuate or how they felt. With that realization, Dillon approached the team at the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks with the idea of creating a site where the community could come and tell their tale.
Five graduate students were hired to help build the infrastructure, and the team started securing partnerships with others around the city, including WCVB-TV Channel 5, WBUR, GlobeLab and the Digital Public Library of America. Together, they’ve been able to collect 3,000 items, including content WCVB filmed during Marathon Monday that didn’t make it to air, well-wishes gifted to patients at Boston Medical Center and first-person accounts from victims of the bombings.
Cordell says they began collecting stories over the summer, whether at the One Run, where runners could finish the last mile of the race they weren’t able to, or via personal outreach on social media. Several people have also reached out to the team telling them they have a whole memory stick full of photos, asking, “Can you work with me?”
Most recently, Cordell recalls filming they were doing with WCVB at Northeastern, where they were interviewing survivors of the tragedy.
“It was a transformative moment for our team, because it affirmed why we’re doing this,” he says. “We’re getting to a point now where the raw emotion is … not felt quite as strongly.”
For survivors, Cordell notes, “Six months is nothing.” They’re just being released from their hospital rooms and no where near achieving normalcy. They do, however, have a more reflective attitude now that it’s been six months, and it’s that attitude Cordell claims they want to capture.
“There’s no story too small,” he says. “Please come and contribute your story.”
If you go: Northeastern’s Snell Library from 1-8 p.m.; 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston; Admission is free and open to the public; Stories can also be submitted here.