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Sunshine, cuddly dogs and tireless surgeons as Boston tries to recover

  • McClatchy Newspapers
  • Published Tuesday, April 16, 2013, at 6:38 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

— Mickey Pescatore says she should’ve been working Tuesday. But some things were more important.

Just after noon, she loaded Duffy and Kennedy, her two Great Pyrenees therapy dogs, into her car and arrived in Boston from nearby Chelmsford, letting her pair of gentle fluffy giants do what they do best: heal wounded psyches.

“Dive in and cuddle,” Pescatore said as onlookers gazed in delight at the pair, lounging on the grass. “Just watch out for the drool.”

With therapy dogs, hugs and vigils, Boston struggled to regain some normalcy Tuesday – a day after two explosions ripped through the race course at the legendary Boston Marathon, killing three, injuring more than 170 and delivering a blow to an entire region.

Twelve blocks in a busy shopping and financial district remained cordoned off Tuesday as a crime scene as investigators combed debris for clues. But local officials, even as they stressed a need for vigilance, said they wanted life in the city to resume.

“We want people to come and go. We want you to live your life,” Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said. “We want you to go about your business.”

Thousands returned to work after the Patriots’ Day holiday, coffee shops were crowded with patrons and diners basked in the noonday sun at cafes. But it was an incongruous recovery: Runners in blue-and-yellow official marathon windbreakers walked past buildings patrolled by Massachusetts National Guardsmen toting rifles. Near the finish line, the tents that had been used for the race were commandeered for rescue operations.

And on Boston Common, sun worshipers, pickup baseball and Frisbee games competed for green space with a staging area for police vehicles, ambulances and military tents.

At his salon on Newbury Street, just blocks from the explosions, John Navaroli said he was relieved to find no cancellations for hair appointments. Clients were somber, he said, but determined.

“They needed to come in, you’ve got to keep on going,” Navaroli said. “After 9/11 we were told, ‘You’ve got to do what you do.’ As horrible as it was, as horrible as those images are, we’ve got to beat it.”

As thousands of runners began to return home – news crews taking their places at local hotels – many were drawn to the explosion site, watching as streets were cleared of marathon detritus: water bottles and the Mylar heat sheets that kept the runners protected against New England weather.

Nearly all said they plan to return.

“If you’re a marathon runner, this is it, this is the Holy Grail, and to have it end like this,” said Mark Kinney, 48, a financial adviser from Stockbridge, Mass., who was half a mile from the finish line when the explosions went off and the race was stopped. “You have this sense of, ‘We’re not going to let them win.’ You want to finish as a statement for everyone else, for the country, and for yourself.”

Many schools have this week off, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts tweeted that it would be open for the day, waiving admission fees. "We hope to be a place of comfort and refuge for all in Boston," a museum statement said.

At Boston Medical Center – where 23 bombing victims were treated – that refuge would be welcome. By Tuesday, just four had been discharged and 10 remained in critical condition, including a 5-year-old.

Surgeons at the hospital described an array of grisly wounds, mostly below the torso, where the blast ripped through bodies, brutally severing limbs. More amputations were performed at the hospital; some patients lost both legs, others just one.

At one point, the hospital had 10 operating rooms running at the same time, performing with what one surgeon called "controlled chaos." Tracey Dechert, a trauma surgeon who had left the hospital at 11 a.m. Monday after a full shift, answered her page Monday afternoon, returning without hesitation. She had to park several blocks away because of the police presence and ran down the street to the hospital. There, she performed a double amputation on a young woman.

Some of those patients will need two or three surgeries in the coming days, and Dechert returned to work Tuesday after just a few hours of sleep.

Trauma surgeons are accustomed to horrifying situations, she said, “and you don’t think about it at the time. But this, you can’t put into words how disturbing this is.”

Still, there she was, patiently briefing reporters on the situation Tuesday explaining the extent of the injuries.

“This tragedy is not going to stop Boston,” said Thomas Menino, the city’s outgoing mayor, who attended two press conferences Tuesday despite a broken leg. “We are Boston. We are one community and we will not let terror take us over.”

Email:@lesleyclark@mcclatchydc.com; twitter @lesleyclark

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