Runners, fans return to Boston Marathon a year after bombing

New Yorker Renee Pompei-Reynolds runs in the 2013 New Yorker Renee Pompei-Reynolds runs in the 2013 Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Photo Credit: Renee Pompei-Reynolds

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BOSTON - Jason Sullivan will be standing near the Boston Marathon finish line with his son Monday, cheering on runners in what the former Hauppauge resident considers a show of defiance and civic pride.

A year ago, as the first bomb exploded along Boylston Street during last year's race, Sullivan and his son, Danny, hit the ground and crawled to cover.

Both suffered temporary hearing loss, and as 11-year-old Danny began to cry, Jason picked him up and sprinted away from the race route. Then he ducked into a hotel lobby, holding the boy close until they began to hear again.

"We couldn't hear after they bombed the marathon last year, but this year we'll be hearing loud and clear the sounds of a great city and a great race," said Sullivan, 43, a construction project manager in Boston who did the same work on Long Island from 2002 to 2010. "Our city is a little on edge, but we're coming back to show the world we're not afraid. And I want to show my son not to be afraid."

They will be among a massive crowd of spectators officials anticipate could top 1 million -- twice the usual number -- during the first Boston Marathon since a pair of pressure-cooker bombs detonated near the finish line last year, killing three people and injuring more than 260.

And scores of runners have signed up for the first time, seeing their participation in Monday's race as a chance to show solidarity with Boston and pay tribute to the victims.

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Race organizers have expanded the field of runners this year by 9,000 to nearly 36,000. Of those, about 21,000 are traveling here from states outside the New England region to participate, organizers said.

"I am scared of the marathon being a target, but I feel like I have to do this after what happened last year," said participant Jackie Bates, 24, of Manhattan, who works at a Garden City law office. "I've never run it before, so I wanted to be a part of an iconic event that feels even more important now."

For Long Island residents, the race is a chance to support a city still shaken by the terrorist attack.

"The same way people came out to lower Manhattan a year after 9/11, we want to be here to pay tribute," said Mike Pascucci, 51, of Holbrook, who's in Boston to cheer on several family members and friends running the marathon. "This is America's race."

But some Bostonians are not quite ready to attend the marathon again.

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Jack Cody, still coping with the trauma of witnessing last year's bombings near the finish line, said he's been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and doesn't feel safe watching the race in person.

"It would bring back too many memories," said Cody, who lives in downtown Boston. "For many of us, it was a traumatic experience. Going back into those crowds . . . remembering the screams and the lockdown, all of that, would be a little much this soon after."

Residents of Boston and its suburbs were given a shelter-in-place lockdown order last April 19 after police officers traded gunshots with the two bombing suspects, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, in the Boston suburb of Watertown. Tamerlan was killed in the shootout. His brother was later found hiding in a nearby boat, and is awaiting trial.

Former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Sunday on ABC Sunday that he's concerned about "some sort of copycat event, something that looks similar to what we saw last year" along the marathon route. He also said authorities have done everything they can to prevent such an attack.

The security operation at Monday's marathon will be the largest in the event's history, using thousands of law enforcement officers along with bomb-sniffing dogs, radiation detectors and other anti-terrorism measures.

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"We may be a little scared, a little worried," Sullivan said. "But we're also ready to celebrate a great event."

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