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'Dear Boston' Serves As Memorial One Year After Bombing

The notes are written on runners’ worn shoes, paper scraps, T-shirts, cards, banners and hats. They’re words of encouragement, reverence and reflection. The items are a testament to the emotional time following one of the most tragic days in Boston history — April 15, 2013, the bombing at the Boston Marathon.


Boston Public Library’s new exhibit, “Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial,” showcases these mementos left at Copley Square to mark the one-year anniversary of the attack.

“It’s really a space for reflection and a space for Bostonians and people who love Boston from all over the world to come here and have a time and place for healing here at the one-year anniversary,” said Dear Boston exhibit curator Rainey Tisdale. “It’s really an attempt to understand the deeper meaning of that memorial and really what people were trying to express there.”

Hundreds of runners tied their sneakers to the police barricades in Copley Square that became a memorial to the Boston Marathon bombings. Curator Rainey Tisdale was part of a team that carefully untied those running shoes, cleaned, and collected them for the "Dear Boston" exhibit. Chiara Sottile / NBC News

The exhibition will run from Monday until May 11 as part of the Boston Better project. The “really intense” process of compiling the items and organizing them into eleven themes took two months to complete, according to Tisdale.

“We wanted to be very careful not to introduce all this emotion and all these memories from April, and then just leave it hanging in the air here at the one year anniversary without any resolution,” Tisdale said. “The third section of the exhibition is about all the hope, and love, and compassion.”

Tisdale said organizers determined early that the display should heavily feature the words of everyday people at the memorial instead of the curators’ words.

“It’s actually very light on interpretive text, and you will see quotes from the memorial all over,” she said.

People from around the world left messages of hope and support on the makeshift memorial in Copley Square in the weeks following the Boston Marathon bombings. One message came from a Sandy Hook mother who wrote, "We understand. Sending love and support." Chiara Sottile / NBC News

Even the showcase’s title is inspired by the people’s words.

“This idea of ‘Dear Boston,’ which on one hand is this salutation that you know, people wrote messages to this city and left them there,” Tisdale said. “’Dear’ has a specific connotation that's about holding something close.”

Get an inside look at the “Dear Boston” exhibit by watching the video below.