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Blast zone slowly comes back to life

People are escorted across Boylston Street on April 23 as residents and business owners are allowed to return to the street for the first time since the Boston Marathon bombings.
People are escorted across Boylston Street on April 23 as residents and business owners are allowed to return to the street for the first time since the Boston Marathon bombings.Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

By Matthew DeLuca, Staff Writer, NBC News

BOSTON — A week and a day after the Boston Marathon bombings, business owners and residents began to return Tuesday to the six-block, cordoned-off area of the attack that investigators painstakingly scoured for evidence.

It has been a long wait for Joy Lee and her employees at Samurai Boston, a store near the race’s finish line on Boylston Street.  Lee said she has been unable to get to tax and payroll documents since the bombings and she missed a deadline to file meal taxes. Even her car has been blocked off behind the police barriers still decorated with flowers and messages of support.

"We have all the employees text messaging me every single day," Lee said as she waited to return to her business in a steady drizzle Tuesday. "They’re all looking for jobs. They have to pay the rent."

Lee said she would take two employees with her back into the restaurant Tuesday to clean up and clear food gone bad from the refrigerators. She was one of many Boylston business owners expected to show up at the Hynes Convention Center to re-enter their shops under a staggered schedule laid out by the city.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s office released a plan Monday night to bring Boylston back to life after investigators handed the site back to the city in a brief ceremony. The plan allowed residents and business owners with essential staff to return to return block-by-block from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The city has not yet announced when the street will be reopened to the public.

At the barricades on Clarendon and Boylston streets, where police allowed pedestrians and vehicles to pass Tuesday, a man and woman in running gear shared a long embrace before jogging away.

Makeshift memorials remain, many of them bearing the names of the victims killed in the attack — Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, and Lu Lingzi — as well as that of Sean Collier, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer believed to have been slain Thursday by the alleged bombers.

The prolonged closure may have untold long-term effects for some businesses in the area, but some Bostonians said Tuesday they’ll dig into their own pockets to ensure the shops and restaurants that line the area around the marathon’s finish line make a strong comeback.

"I already made a reservation at Atlantic Fish Company," said Dan Gross, 30, an account executive at an advertising agency near Boylston. He is booked for 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday, and says if they’re serving, he’ll be there.

The restaurant said that it remained closed "until further notice" in a statement on its website Tuesday.

"I think everyone should just get back there and support the businesses," Gross said. "They lost a lot."

John Berosh, 46, heard the first explosion from his office on the 22nd floor of an office building overlooking the race.

"I knew something wasn’t right," said the software engineer, an 18-year resident of the city. "I went to the window and saw a huge, hideous cloud of smoke coming up from the street." Then he saw the second bomb go off.

Berosh, who said he watches the marathon from his office most years, said he’s ready for Boylston to get back to its usual bustle.

"I am very excited," he said. "I am very proud to tell you that I was here at work last Thursday and Friday, just to hold the door for someone, smile at someone.”

But like Lee, who’s worried about helping her employees make their rents, Berosh said it’s not just the business owners who have been set back by the closure.

"Tip your waiters," Berosh said.

An electronics repair store called iFixYouri on adjacent Newbury Street was shut for several days after the bombings.

"We’re a small, family-run company, and the impact of what happened last week has been significant," said Michelle Zausnig, vice president of marketing for the Florida-based company. “Being shut down, it impacted us as a small business because we don’t have unlimited resources."

The store saw a return to regular business when it re-opened last Friday.

"We’re expecting to rise again, just like the city," Zausnig said.