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Caitlin McBride: Sadness and resolve as city falls silent in tragedy

BOSTON city centre has come to a standstill, the streets fallen into silence. But in the aftermath of the marathon tragedy, the echoes of 9/11 are still loud enough to hear.

The normally bustling shopping streets are barren. Rather than living up to its name as one of the busiest cities in America, Boston more resembles a ghost town.

The roads are cordoned off – the finishing line, which should be a mark of achievement and celebration, still stands. That is because it is now a crime scene.

I initially watched the explosions at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon on television in Ireland — feeling, much like the rest of the world, a growing terror.

The word 'terrorism' is thrown around too loosely these days, but any American who watched the towers collapse on September 11 is all too familiar with that pit in the bottom of their stomachs.

It's a twisted irony that the last mile of the marathon was being run for victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. Even more terrifying is the confirmation that there is still no development of who is responsible for this.

The very core of terrorism is, quite simply, to terrify the masses in their day-to-day lives. Whether that is dropping your child off at school, or running the marathon.

But Bostonians are resilient: there's no doubt in anyone's mind they will overcome this crippling fear cruelly thrust upon them.

Flags around the city stand at half mast, a nod to the patriotic nature of the American people after a travesty on Patriots’ Day.

President Barack Obama said that the US people are “united as Americans”, a sentiment which is becoming all too familiar with the citizens of a nation who simply want to resume life as normal.

But while this is America’s tragedy, Ireland feels its pain. Landing in Boston 24 hours after the explosions hit, the Irish connection is apparent as soon as a visitor disembarks the plane.

Employee names like Sullivan, O'Shea and Fitzgerald hang proudly and visitors are instantly reminded of this most Irish of American cities.

Two of the three victims who tragically lost their lives on Monday were Irish-American, one a Boston University graduate student — an American university with one of the strongest ties to Irish third level education.

Another was a young boy whose family are steeped in Irish dancing, his little sister unbearably losing her leg in the blast, and the pair’s mother also seriously injured.

The mourning cannot be rushed. Libraries and museums are opening their doors, providing a place of calm for tourists and locals alike, a haven for those hurt by an attack on a city they love.

Hospitals are crammed and some patients are being supervised by armed security guards. The doctors of Boston, more accustomed to holding a scalpel than a microphone, have been thrust into the spotlight.

As the tragedy unfolded on Monday, medics rushed immediately into work at the city’s hospitals to help as many as they could. First responders’ names are also on everyone’s lips. Fire fighters and police officers. The Irish community are more than represented in these occupations, who helped ensure that the death toll has not crept higher.

When all the dust has settled and the wound begins to heal, there will be time for their actions to be saluted. They have been tireless in limiting the casualties, aiding the wounded, and reducing the damage. Then attention can turn once again to rebuilding the indomitable Bostonian spirit.

Caitlin McBride in Boston

Online Editors