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Boston Business Owners Allowed To Return To Bombing Site


The massive swath of Boston that has been closed for more than a week is getting closer to reopening. City officials yesterday brought victims of the marathon bombings and their relatives in for a private visit and allowed neighborhood residents back home for the first time in over a week. Businesses also began the process of cleaning up and preparing to reopen.

The hardest-hit shops and restaurants remain boarded up. As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, others are hoping to reopen today or tomorrow.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: They fled in a panic last week, and returned yesterday both eager and anxious.

ALEC MICHAELS: It's a little shocking. It's a little nerve-wracking.

SMITH: Alec Michaels is a waiter at a restaurant called Whiskeys, just a few blocks from the finish line. The bar manager, Matt Yantz, says its big mahogany bar was packed on Monday when one of the bombs exploded close enough that you could feel it.

MATT YANTZ: You know, people couldn't get out fast enough. People were opening the windows and jumping out the windows on the side of the street.

SMITH: Everything was left: open bottles of beer, half-eaten sandwiches, buckets of dirty dishes. Now, cold coffee, old omelets and fruit slices lay spoiled on the bar.

YANTZ: As you can smell, we have some work to do.

BECKY CALOGERO: It smells in here. I can't take it.

SMITH: General manager Becky Calogero snaps about 15 employees into action.

CALOGERO: I want the windows opened. I need some cross-ventilation. OK. And then get all this trash down here and help. Can one of you see if they can arrange for extra trash pickup?

UNIDENTIFIED CITY WORKER #1: If anybody - if your staff needs anything, just let us know.

SMITH: City officials brought health and building inspectors to every building on every block. They also stood ready with trauma counselors, pro bono attorneys and cleanup crews.

UNIDENTIFIED CITY WORKER #2: They can probably power-wash the blood off if you guys need some...

KIM RUBIN: I think that there's probably more blood on the patio, too.

SMITH: At the Charles Mark Hotel, just a few doors away from one of the bombs, employees like Kim Rubin seem to tackle even the most gruesome chore - cleaning blood from the floors, tables and counters - with a vengeance.

RUBIN: Just got to do what you have to do, just got to wash it away somehow. We need to get our lives back.

SMITH: Another employee called the cleanup "therapy." She fought back tears as she white-knuckled a mop across the floor. It was as if removing the blood that had splattered the bar might also somehow erase the evil that had stained the city.


SMITH: But even as street sweepers scrub the pavement, city officials were determined not to completely wipe out any trace of the tragedy.

BERNIE LYNCH: I think you guys are right. It should go all the way back. Because then, the experience is to come in.

SMITH: Parks director Bernie Lynch was setting up a new temporary memorial that would display all the flowers, flags, sneakers and stuffed animals that have been left as tributes over the past week.

LYNCH: We all have to reopen, so everyone can come back down here and enjoy. But also, we can't forget what happened.

SMITH: To those who lived through it, forgetting seems nearly impossible.

CALOGERO: But I am starting to have dreams about bombs going off, so maybe it's affected me more than I thought it would.

SMITH: Back at Whiskeys, manager Becky Calogero says coming back to work has helped her heal more than anything else.

CALOGERO: This is a step. The fact that we're all here, we're ready to go, you know, and there's life, is a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED CITY WORKER #3: "Life is good"? Life is really good. Are we ready to go?

ROY HEFFERNAN: We're ready.


HEFFERNAN: Thank you.

SMITH: Among those lined up to get back to their offices yesterday was the Life is Good clothing company. One of their employees was seriously injured in the attack. That understandably rattled even the company's self-proclaimed chief operating optimist, Roy Heffernan.

HEFFERNAN: Are you kidding? Yeah. That took us all down.

SMITH: But ultimately, Heffernan says, their credo stands.

HEFFERNAN: Our company is not "life is easy." Our company is that "life is good," and we need to all continually - on bad days and on good days - look for the messages in and around us that can lift each other up.

SMITH: The company put one of those messages on a T-shirt in tribute to Boston.

HEFFERNAN: It simply says "Nothing's stronger than love." That's it.

SMITH: Nearly 2,500 sold in the first two hours, Heffernan says. All the proceeds go to the victims of the bombing. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.