Suffolk remembers Boston Marathon one year later

One year after two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, members of the Suffolk community rallied to give back before next week’s race.

The American Red Cross (ARC) set up several tables in the Regan Gym in Ridgeway for the Suffolk community to donate blood on April 15, the one year anniversary of the bombing that killed three people and injured hundreds. The university also held a moment of silence at the minute the first bomb exploded last year and a Boston-themed banquet to raise money for the One Fund in addition to the blood drive.

“We’ve done [blood drives] every year at Suffolk for a long time, one in the fall and one in the spring,” said Tim Albers, associate director of the S.O.U.L.S. Center for Community Engagement. Albers said this year’s goal was to get 45 to 50 donors.

“Last year’s blood drive was scheduled by chance for the Tuesday after the bombings,” Albers said. “Around 130 people signed in, and we had to turn even more away because the Red Cross just didn’t have the capacity to accommodate everyone. We had a huge outpouring.”

Senior Michael Guay donating blood on campus Tuesday.
(Photos by Sam Humphrey)

Though fewer donors were expected at this year’s Suffolk drive, a steady crowd of students, faculty, and staff braved the rain and streamed into the gym, keeping the ARC’s nurses busy.

“The opportunity for people to give blood on this anniversary is a healing moment and a way to give back,” said Jecoliah Ellis, a spokesperson for the ARC. The ARC sent 600 blood products to Boston hospitals after the attacks, not including an additional 108 units collected at Suffolk’s drives, Ellis said.

So many people showed up to donate last year that the school held an additional drive Thursday for those who could not participate in Tuesday’s drive, Albers said.

Donors could also leave a message of hope or encouragement on a Prayer Canvas for Boston at the blood drive, part of the American Prayer Canvas project.

“The ARC is participating in ‘America 4 Boston’s Prayer Canvas project,” we have 10 canvases from the project being signed by donors and volunteers at blood drives along the East Coast,” Ellis said. Some of the canvases will be featured at Fenway Park this coming Sunday before being moved to a permanent installation.

Suffolk’s tributes to the marathon went beyond that, however. At her internship at Hill Holiday, senior advertising major Annie O’Donnell worked on the Many Stories memorial created by the company and the One Fund. The memorial is on display currently at the Boston Public Library.

“I opened and read probably thousands of letters over the course of [the first two weeks of February] from people who had Boston and the marathon in their hearts,” O’Donnell said. Her team ultimately picked 200 letters for the memorial’s storyboard, and then presented the storyboard to survivors of the attacks.

“Each survivor was finally able to read the messages that were meant for them from all over the world. It was truly beautiful,” O’Donnell said. Letters came in from everyone, from Boston natives to kids sending in money from lemonade stands or tooth fairy visits to a Japanese girls’ school that sent in 200 paper cranes.

The experience made O’Donnell grateful for those who donated to the One Fund.

“Some of the letters even brought me to tears, it was so inspiring how something that happened to the city of Boston, a relatively small city, can bring the world together,” O’Donnell said.