Gathering to reflect upon and share stories from the bombing that abruptly ended the Boston Marathon, a tense and teary-eyed crowd filled the Cutler Majestic Theatre Wednesday morning. Members of the Emerson community gave their accounts of the incident, and thanked one another for their support over the past 72 hours.
Standing before over 1,000 people, President M. Lee Pelton smiled as he approached the podium. What had first appeared to be a somber disposition by Pelton suddenly became uplifting.
“Hello, my name is Lee,” he said. “I just want to you to know, I am so glad you are here today.”
Pelton continued, describing Monday morning’s race — an event held annually on the third Monday in April — as the perfect day to go running. But the perfect day was brought to a sudden halt when two bombs went off as racers crossed the finish line, killing three and injuring over 170.
“Shock slowly gave way to pain, and grief, and suffering, and anger, and guilt, and sadness, and confusion,” he said. “And then love. And passion. Emotions that have no name."
Over the past three days, Emerson students and staff have shown their support for one another in various ways. Some have created fundraisers for victims, while others have organized small support groups.
In his speech to the community on Wednesday, Pelton spoke of the caring atmosphere that the college has embodied.
“This is who we are,” said Pelton. “With honesty and integrity, we will come together.”
The explosions left eight Emerson student spectators hospitalized; all were released on Monday.
Wednesday’s gathering was open to the public. After it filled to capacity, the college offered additional seating in the Semel Theater, where attendees watched a live stream of the event online.
Pelton spoke after Rabbi Albert S. Axelrad, Emerson’s former head of spiritual life, asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence.
An emotional Tau Zaman, the Student Government Association president, also delivered a speech urging students to let themselves feel their raw emotions, without being ashamed, as they move forward in their recovery.
"Emerson, I am so sorry,” he said. “When I was asked to speak with you today, I thought that if I worked hard enough, I could find the magical selection of just the right words that I could combine into this big Band-Aid of a speech. That I could patch up all of our worries and pain, and lift us up out of the slump. But I can’t — no one can."
Jan Roberts-Breslin, a professor and graduate program director in the visual and media arts department, recalled for the audience her worry for those at Emerson when she heard the news. Kristelle Angelli, a Catholic chaplain and Newman Club advisor, told students where they can find counseling.
After the speeches, attendees were invited to share their experiences from the marathon. When student runners Lauren Cortizo, Christian Bergen-Aragon, and Brendan Scully walked toward the stage, the audience erupted in loud applause.
Scully and Bergen-Aragon, both sophomore journalism majors, wore their blue and yellow marathon zip-ups.
Cortizo, a senior, stepped up to the microphone first, and told the audience that in the moments after the two devices went off, she received nine phone calls and 130 text messages from Emerson students amid the chaos.
“I have felt more love in the past 48 hours than I have in my whole life,” said the marketing communication major. “Emerson is just amazing.”
In an interview with the Beacon, Pelton said he was hopeful about moving forward, and confident that Emerson students will make it through this event.
“These are the things I know about Emerson students,” he said. “They’re enormously affirmative. They’re enormously creative. And I knew that sense of affirmation and that creative spirit that envelops this campus would see us through in this dark time.”
On Monday afternoon, administrators placed the Emerson campus on lockdown, requiring people to have a valid Emerson ID to enter the college’s buildings. Students were discouraged from leaving their dormitories.
During this period, Nicholas Reynolds, a resident assistant on Little Building’s sixth floor, and his resident Chris Dobens, a freshman marketing communication major, started a campaign called Boston Strong in their common room in an effort to raise money for those affected by the bombings.
“We wanted to create a way that the average college student can give to the victims of the Boston Marathon attack,” said Reynolds, a junior visual and media arts major, “because it felt like there wasn’t much we could do.”
The pair created a T-shirt with the words “Boston Strong” written in yellow over blue fabric — the same colors of the Boston Athletic Association, which hosts the marathon each year.
Shirts are being sold for $20 until April 22 on InktothePeople.com, a platform dedicated to helping designers sell their products, according to the company’s website. Reynolds said the money he and Dobens raise with the movement will be donated to The One Fund Boston, a foundation created by Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino to raise money for victims of Monday’s events.
The site generally charges a $6 processing fee, but on Tuesday afternoon, Reynolds said company officials reached out to him and offered to cover that fee; all $20 will go to The One Fund Boston. As of print, the campaign raised $73,020. Anyone who decides to order a shirt will receive it within 10 days of ordering, according to Reynolds.
The T-shirts and the community gathering yesterday were not the only instances of Emerson providing support. On Tuesday, hundreds — including numerous Emerson students — filled the Boston Common for a vigil in remembrance of those who died in the bombings.
Despite the substantial evening crowd, only the 6 p.m. bells from the Park Street Church could be heard at first. Students huddled together, crying and holding one another beneath a cloudy sky.
The vigil had no schedule: It was meant as a place for anyone to come and reflect on the previous day’s events, said a woman who shouted from the Parkman Bandstand’s steps. A group of singers stood in the gazebo and began to sing “Amazing Grace.”
The crowd clutched lit candles as a canvas sign displayed the words “Boston is our home.” Audience members added their thoughts to the sign with markers.
Ruby Scalera, a junior journalism major, attended with two friends, crying in one another’s arms throughout the vigil. Though she was not at the marathon on Monday, she said she felt personally affected by it.
“This is good,” she said of the vigil. “You have the police here, you have the military here, but this shows this part of the city isn’t going to let this by.”
Jen Tiedemann, who said she is a longtime Boston resident, was also visibly shaken by the ceremony.
“I am really fighting with emotions,” said the sophomore performing arts major.
The event emptied out after the singers’ final song.
“We shall overcome someday,” they sang, their voices echoing through the Common. “Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe.”