BOSTON -- Hockey fans filled the streets around TD Garden, streaming into the athletic complex as they passed vendors selling T-shirts that read “Boston Strong Never Forget” with the date of the bombings.
Half a dozen Homeland Security vehicles lined the front of the adjacent federal building and a handful of U.S Air Force personnel patrolled the grounds. Police were stationed at multiple street corners across the street.
An American flag was wedged in the skate of the Bobby Orr statue out front of the arena. Many fans lined up outside the complex, holding the hands of their children. They cheered when motorcycle units from the Lowell Police Department went past.
Many said the game was a welcome relief after a week of fear and paranoia.
Brian Syrjala, 40, and his wife, Michelle, attended Saturday’s game between the city’s beloved Bruins and the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. The Syrjalas had been set to attend Friday’s game, which was put off because of the manhunt for bombing suspect Dzhokhar.
On Friday, Syrjala said he and his family huddled in their Newton house as authorities searched for the suspect.
He said he peered out his window, taking a hard look at the people who passed by outside thinking, “Is that him?”
On Saturday, as he walked to the Garden, Syrjala said it felt good to return to normalcy -- but something had changed.
“To see the city return to normal is great,” he said. “But I don’t think anybody out here is going to lose sight of the people that suffered.
“The sense of relief is tempered by thinking about people whose lives were really affected. We were inconvenienced but we didn’t end up in a hospital. We didn’t lose a limb.”
“We’re happy to be out of the house,” he said. “But there are people in hospitals all around this town who are going to have to deal with an entirely new reality.
“This is the new normal, unfortunately,” he said.
Scott DeSantis, 41 and a real estate broker from New Hampshire, said he visits the city several times a week and had tickets to Friday’s game as well. He was near the marathon finish line when the second bomb went off. A friend received a leg injury, he said.
“I feel a lot better today,” he said, standing with his girlfriend, Jackie Turcotte.
DeSantis said his uneasy feeling in the wake of the bombing would be hard to shake. “If you can’t go to an event with families at it, you can’t go anywhere that’s safe,” he said, referring to the marathon.
Still, he said he would go about his daily routines.
“It will always bother me, but I won’t change anything.”
“You can’t let that stuff stop you. I’ll be at the race next year.”
Lexi Rock, 21 and a nursing student from Worcester, attended the game with a friend.
“I still feel safe,” she said. “I won’t let anybody disrupt my life. This is my town. This is my city.”
Before the game, Massachusetts state police tweeted the following:
Bruins players wearing Boston Police, State Police caps for pregame warmup skate today. Thank you, B’s. #BostonStrong — MASS STATE POLICE (@MassStatePolice) April 20, 2013