The 13-year-old lion was not only a tourist favorite, but also, a research animal. The beloved lion was being studied by the Oxford University Conservation Unit.
In the days after the Boston Marathon bombings back in April, I found myself drawn the area where the bombs exploded.
At first, there were a few American flags tied to the police barricades. Then people started bringing teddy bears, t-shirts that said “Boston Strong,” baseball caps and flowers. They were piled up before the barricades.
Eventually, when the crime scene was cleared, the memorial was moved to Copley Square Park, about half a block from the marathon finish line.
This morning, a crew of volunteers removed the items from the memorial. They will be dried and cleaned and eventually taken to the Boston City Archives.
“It was a very wonderful thing that so many folks came out to, either to add to, walk through or help take care of this temporary space.”
The sun was hardly up when I got there this morning. I met a runner there named Kellie Cullen.
She had flown into Boston from North Carolina last night and said she made it a point to include a stop at the memorial on her morning run. As she spoke to me, she was fighting back tears.
“I don’t know, I just wanted to see it. It’s just so tragic,” Cullen said.
Volunteers placed the items from the memorial into huge plastic bags and loaded them on truck. Susana Crampton is with the preservation organization Historic New England.
“You can’t but be touched by seeing this,” she said. “I think everyone here would agree with that. I think we are all very happy that it will stay preserved.”
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter to the families of the bombing victims and the survivors. In that letter he said, “it is my hope that the respectful closing of the temporary memorial will help us all look to the future.”
He also announced the formation of a Remembrance Committee that will work on creating a permanent memorial to the bombing victims. Chris Osgood works for the mayor’s office. He said the temporary shrine served an important purpose.
“It was a very wonderful thing that so many folks came out to, either to add to, walk through or help take care of this temporary space,” Osgood said.
Another runner, a woman named Sarah Norcott from Boston, said she had mixed emotions as she watched the crews working. She signed the message board at the memorial before it was taken down.
“It’s kind of sad that it’s being taken down but it won’t stop us from forgetting,” she said.
I watched as the volunteers carried the four wooden crosses that had been the centerpiece of the memorial to a van. The crosses represent the three people who were killed in the bombings and the MIT police officer who was allegedly shot to death by the bombing suspects.
Then Copley Square was clear, with just a volunteer who was sweeping away the debris left behind. It was back to normal, you might say. But it will never the same.