On the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, contributors to a publication produced by 16 Boston College Presidential Scholars spoke on Tuesday evening about their experiences with the attacks and about the work they do every day to help the Boston community grow stronger.
The publication, “The Heart of This City: Boston Strong and Becoming Stronger,” was put together by 16 members of the Class of 2016’s Presidential Scholar program, and features a number of interviews with and articles by leaders in the Boston community.
Tuesday’s event included addresses by four of those who wrote for the publication. Dave Fortier, who ran the 2013 Marathon and suffered hearing loss when the explosions went off at the finish line, delivered the opening address. Also speaking were Atyia Martin, coordinator of the Boston Public Health Commission; Katy Erker, self-advocacy manager of Rosie’s Place; and Matthew Jose of the Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative. Each addressed the motto “Boston Strong,” popularized by Emerson students who printed it on t-shirts after the attacks, and shared ideas about how the city can grow stronger in the wake of the Marathon bombings.
The editors’ project aimed to confront social injustices throughout the city that get little attention. It examines what “Boston Strong” means outside of the attacks and aims to inspire others to address issues of homelessness, immigration, and public health, said editor-in-chief Daniel Lundberg, LSOE ’16.
“The Marathon bombings were undoubtedly an attack on Boston, but they are just one of many injustices facing this city and our troubled world,” he said.
Lundberg, who ran last year’s marathon as a Campus School volunteer, called for Bostonians to respond cohesively and extensively to such problems as poverty and disease. His co-editor-in-chief Lucas Allen, A&S ’16, said that that response must begin with awareness of and reflection on pressing social problems.
Lundberg cited the city’s increasing homelessness rate as an injustice that requires a strong community response.
Erker-who works with homeless and impoverished women at Rosie’s Place, an all-women shelter in the South End-said there is a lot of strength in solidarity and in sharing vulnerabilities with others.
“I believe in my core that the women at Rosie’s Place are the strongest women I’ve ever worked with,” she said.
Rosie’s Place has provided shelter, meals, and courses to women since it was founded as the first women’s shelter in Boston in 1974. It serves 245 meals every day and operates largely on individual contributions.
“[We need] to utilize opportunity and utilize privilege to create change so that our response to poverty and homelessness in Boston is out of the strengths that we have and out of the skills that we have,” Erker said.
Martin, who helped coordinate the public health response to the bombings, spoke about the importance of immediate reactions to public emergencies. Last year, her agency helped to support injured victims immediately after the attacks and throughout their recovery.
She stressed, however, that everyday staff of the Boston Public Health Commission work to support citizens and visitors of the city.
The Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative works to help immigrants become citizens. One of its main goals is to build stronger communities by breaking down the barriers that keep many immigrant communities isolated from each other.
“We need to break down these silos in an effort to get immigrant communities to talk to each other about why they’re becoming citizens [and] what it means to be a citizen,” said Jose, the organization’s program manager.