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DEAR WORLD: Boston Marathon

Survivors + responders return to the finish line. Portraits by @dearworld

Story by Dear World April 10th 2014

Dear Survivors,

When we asked you to return to the finish line, a place that changed your lives, we knew it wouldn't be easy. You told us some days are harder than others, but that it's okay to have bad days.

Mostly you told us about the goodness of others. Colleagues who babysat. School kids who sent notes. Neighbors who cooked dinner.

What happened that day was terror. Terror happens when love is absent.

Boston is a city of love stories now.

Thank you for sharing yours here. As you heal, know you inspire the rest of us to be better, still.

Love,

Robert
Founder, Dear World

Watch THE video: "Dear World, a love letter from Boston marathon bombing survivors."

Watch the VIDEO: "Celeste: a Double amputee visits finish line for first time."

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Celeste Corcoran

I'm Celeste Corcoran from Lowell, Massachusetts. My message is "Still Standing." I wrote still standing because the bombers hurt me-they took my legs-but I can still stand on them. I just love the play on the message. Writing it on my naked legs, seeing those words and having the prosthetics next to me.

I'm still standing.

To be a part of something like Dear World, to be asked to be a part of this, it gives me energy.

This is the first time that I was back at the finish line. I had never been back, and this was about reclaiming it. That finish line has been a negative space since the marathon. This was about reclaiming that space in a positive way. I chose to be there. I took back control. I chose to do this and the heck with everyone body else. It's creating new memories.

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His name was Martin Richard

In memoriam of Martin Richard. June 9, 2004 - April 15, 2013.
Pictured: Lee Ann Yanni, Marathon Survivor.

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Always remember krystle campbell

In memoriam of Krystle Campbell. May 3, 1983-April 15, 2013.
Pictured: Nick Yanni, Marathon Survivor.

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Always Remember Lu Lingzi

In memoriam of Lu Lingzi. August 17, 1989 - April 15, 2013.
Pictured: Dave Fortier, Marathon Survivor.


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His name was Sean Collier

In memoriam of Sean Collier. January 3, 1986 - April 18 2013.
Pictured: Elizabeth Bermingham, Marathon Survivor.

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Sydney Corcoran

My name is Sydney Corcoran, I am 18 years old, and I live in Lowell, MA. My message was "You Can Scar Me, But You Cannot Stop Me." I think that everyone has scars, and we should embrace them. I've learned that we can overcome the obstacles that gave those scars to us.

It was really hard to think about coming back to the finish line. I would have anxiety and I would be nervous to come back. I would always find a reason not to return. Now, my first time coming back is doing it with Dear World. I don't think it could have gone any better. I'm so glad my first experience back was with you guys, because it allowed me to take back this place in a happy way.

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Heather Abbott

My message is "Less Leg, More Heart." And the reason I chose that message is because since I lost my leg at the Boston Marathon, I've become what the world considers and certainly America considers a handicapped person. And that's a very new concept for me having been a healthy woman in my thirties before the marathon. I have a new appreciation for people who are considered handicapped and a new compassion for them and the struggles they go through. I think that the experience of losing my leg has made me become more compassionate, so I may have less of a leg now, but I think my heart is bigger because of it.

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roseann sdoia

My mom told me that this is what I said when I came out of my medically induced coma. We have deformities to our bodies, but I think it makes us stronger to be so open with it. I think it's part of our therapy to get through what happened to us. I feel like it was supposed to happen. I feel like my life was supposed to change. I don't know if it's to help others, but I feel like there was a reason for it. It happened to help bring some sort of awareness to disabilities or amputations. You definitely look at the world differently.

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Lee Ann Yanni

My name is Leanne Yanni, and I'm from Boston, Massachusetts. I wrote "Never Be Ashamed" on my leg because the one thing that was hardest for me to get over was how my leg was never going to look the same, and I'm learning to be more proud of it.

I read a quote, and it said "Never be ashamed of a scar. That it only means you are stronger than what tried to hurt you." And it really resonated with me. I am strong, and this is just a little token.

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Dave Fortier

When the first bomb exploded at last year's Boston Marathon, David Fortier grabbed his ear drums. He had just reached mile 26.19. Fortier describes his hearing now as if you put your head next to a fluorescent light and kept it there. His doctors say that it may never go away. He says he feels lucky that his injuries weren't more devastating and that he is running in this year's race. "I had a great time for 26.19 miles," he says."Once everything gets put back together, he says, there will be a lot of people back. It's become a huge part of our lives."

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Alyssa & Brittany Loring

Since the first few moments in the hospital, Brittany has had a positive attitude about healing, and we wanted a message that epitomized what our experience has been. The love and outreach of our community far outweighs the negativity of the event.

When really bad things happen, really good people step up. Throughout the first few weeks, when Brittany was just starting her recovery, I would read her emails from friends and people from her past. They really helped brighten her day and help her maintain her positive attitude. Cards arrived at the hospital from children around the country who wanted to reach out, and their honesty and well wishes made us smile. Her colleagues at Boston College's MBA program made a schedule and dropped off dinners for us, which was immensely helpful. It was just incredible to witness the outreach first hand.
-Alyssa Loring

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Brittany Loring

"Love this life" has been my motto since the bombing. I spent a lot of time prior to the bombing always seeking out the next thing in my career and putting the majority of my focus on finding the right career for myself and on school. I didn't always take time to focus on those around me -my family and friends, the ones who I'd want to spend my last days with. Since the bombing, I've decided to spend each day as if it were my last. This to me means focusing on and acting more graciously to all of those around me. It also means spending as much time with friends and family as possible and viewing those I love as the center of my universe.

I've learned to not take any moment for granted, to never leave a loved one angry, and to always tell people how you feel about them because you never know if you'll get another chance. I've also learned that there is more to life than I thought there was, but it is not in the way I thought. The ordinary parts of life are very fulfilling if we take the time to focus on them and cherish them.

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mIke Lawn

I wrote "I Run for Martin." I've been down with a hamstring, I haven't run in 4 weeks. I came out trying to do 13 or 14 miles, and I ended up doing 18. I saw the Richards family at the starting line in Natick, and the strength and the courage that they've shown through this tragedy gave me inspiration to run today. I can go out and run through pain. They're a true inspiration to the meaning of Boston. (Mike is a Watertown Police Officer who is running this year's marathon, we actually caught him finishing a training run and asked him to participate. We're thankful you said yes, Mike!).

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David Yepez

One thing that I've learned since last April is that in the world there are many bad people, but that there are also many good people that outweigh the bad people. When the bombings occurred, immediately there were people from all around the world of all ages who supported in any way they could.

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Angela Papageorgiou

My name is Angela Papageorgiou, and I am from Athens, Greece. This message has three different layers in it. I'm a runner, and running Boston is for me, as for many runners, the dream of dreams. And another level of significance is I'm Greek so, the marathon originated from there, so that's an additional level of significance. And most of all, this past year I have learned that love is more dominant over everything else and through the events of 4/15.

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John Banse

My message was "Gratitude Jack Claire Tom Hugh." I feel very lucky to be alive and very grateful to my family and friends, the first responders, all the folks at MGH, MEEI, and Spaulding, and the City of Boston for all their support. I am especially grateful to my four kids, whom I believe are the reason that I am still around. My soul is so full of gratitude that there is no room in me for sadness, anger, or fear. "

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Elizabeth Bermingham

My name is Elizabeth Bermingham. I live in Waltham, MA, and I moved to Boston about seven years ago. On my body I wrote "Resilient and 26.2." After the marathon bombing, one of the things that really seemed to resonate with me was the idea of being resilient. What does it take to come back from something that's really difficult? A tragedy, something really unexpected, something that takes your life and completely shakes it up. And that's what happened to me. On the morning of the 15th, I was a normal special education teacher, but by the afternoon of the 15th I felt like my life had been completely derailed and had been forever changed. So how do I get back to the person who I was, or the person who I was with a new perspective of what it's like to encounter this type of unexpected tragedy? I'd also had a lot of previous loss in my life, so being resilient and being able to come back from difficult things was really important to me. That's been the focus of my last year, as we've gone from April 15, 2013 to April 15, 2014, is how to be resilient. How do you find resiliency day to day? How do you find it in big picture? How do you become healthier, more normal, more typical, how do come back from something like this, a tragedy?

The most frightened I've ever been was after the first bomb went off, and I realized what was happening. I was pretty convinced that we were going to die. That building was going to fall on us, that something was going to happen. I realized pretty quickly...as soon as the bomb went off I thought, that's a bomb and then my brain thought oh no no, it couldn't possibly be a bomb, you're on Boylston Street in the marathon? It's got to be an electrical issue, something has to have exploded, a transformer. And then I heard the second bomb, and I knew that we were in very serious danger. And it wasn't until later that I had even realized that I was hurt. But initially I knew something was very wrong, and we needed to leave immediately.

I'd say in terms of resiliency and coming back and training for the marathon, and even coming back from having something happen to you and trying to feel more normal, it's less physically centered and it's more in your brain almost. That it's like your brain has to learn how to communicate again. It has to bring this experience, put it into memory. They've explained to us a bunch of different times in our group that flashbacks, and pieces of that, is your brain not quite communicating and not translating this experience into your normal memory. That takes a long time, and it's really difficult, and so as you run... what I've found as I'm running and as I'm out on the course, I find myself both thinking about last year's marathon and then next year's marathon, and trying to replace in my head the images of horror with images of triumph.

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Michael Bourgault

Every day my wife and I try to move on with our lives. We try to get back to where we were before this terrible incident took place after 36 years of marriage. Some days are easier than others, but we are reminded every day now about what we went through by some part of the media/news. All we can do is "move on" to the next chapter of our lives together. We are also reminded of what we went through by the pain & suffering we still go through every day both physically and mentally.

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Allison Elliot

The prayer below also sums up what I have set as something to strive for each day.

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."
Born and raised just south of the city of Boston, my message needed to relate to the people of this great city. It was important for me to depict strength and power in the picture as well, but limit my face because the image is for all Bostonians. The concept of six degrees of separation doesn't exist in Boston-it's more like 3 degrees.

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Mikey Borgard

After the Marathon, I felt alone. I thought I would never be able to speak, acknowledge what had happened, or trust anyone again. I was more afraid than I have ever been in my life. Jay and Barrett, the two other men in the photograph, showed me how to write about that pain in the past tense. They have spent the last year by my side, teaching me how to laugh again, how to accept what happened and move forward from it, and most importantly, how to forgive. Barrett and Jay remind me every day that humanity IS good. I am immensely grateful for the many gifts they have so patiently given to me. Had it not been for their selfless actions, I would still be a scared little boy without a way out. "Boston Strong" isn't about terrorists or explosives. The real meaning behind those words is the joy, the solidarity, the encouragement, the sacrifices, and the bravery that we are capable of together. It is about proving that malicious acts mean nothing when compared to the strength of love. It is about taking those gifts I have been so graciously given and sharing them with someone who still feels the pain. WE are Boston Strong, and WE will never be alone.

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Footnote: Many thanks to our producer Jen Tutak, our directors Benjamin and David Reece, the One Fund, the City of Boston, the 4/15 Strong running group, Next 26 and Spaulding Rehabilitation Center.
Boston Public Library, Boylston Street, Boston, MA, United States