WBUR Oral History Project: Kevin Brown
Interviewed by: Jayne Guberman
Date: October 29, 2013
Location: Boston Public Library (Boston, MA)
Recorder: Kristi Girdharry
Photo: Kevin Brown (Photo by Jayne Guberman)
Kevin Brown, a carpenter from Brockton, Massachusetts, describes in this interview how he became the unofficial keeper of the public memorial on Copley Square for the Boston Marathon bombings.
Although he was not at the marathon this year, he saw what happened on TV and immediately felt he had to get there. With his family, he attended the church service at which President Obama spoke, and from there went to visit a couple of small memorials that had popped up. By the time the memorial moved to Copley Square, Kevin was committed to caring for it.
Kevin describes the memorial in detail, including the centerpiece where the white, wooden crosses for each of the victims stood. A skilled carpenter, he relates making a cross for Sean Collier, the MIT police officer who was killed by the bombers, and carrying it on a train from Brockton to the memorial site. He also describes the many ways in which the memorial became a sacred space and place of healing. At certain times of day, such as the evening candle lighting, people would spontaneously start to sing, both patriotic songs such as “America the Beautiful” as well as church songs. He enumerates the many types of items that people contributed to the memorial and explains the importance visitors attached to signing an item – a paper plaque, colored paper chains, t-shirts, and running shoes.
Kevin talks about visitors to the site, including “regulars” such as runners who had been unable to finish the race because of the bombings, a group of nurses who could only bring themselves to come after a month had passed, the father of slain officer Sean Collier, the sister of Lingzi Lu, who came from China, as well as public figures such as Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Biden (who left a pair of her running shoes), Governor Patrick, and Mayor Menino.
At the end of the interview, he describes the day on which the memorial was dismantled and taken to the city archives. He recalls that the mayor, early on, referred to the growing collection as a “make-shift memorial.” He explains how he said, “No, it’s the people’s memorial” – and that name has stuck.
Audio Clip 1
Kevin describes traveling by bike, bus, and train to get to the Copley Square Memorial every day.
Audio Clip 2
Kevin describes the creation of the cross for Sean Collier and bringing the cross with him on the train to the memorial. He also talks about Sean's dad coming to visit the memorial at Copley Square.
Audio Clip 3
Kevin discusses his encounters with some of the visitors to the Copley Square memorial, particularly kids. He also talks about feeling like part of a family at the memorial.
Audio Clip 4
Kevin talks about some of the late-night visitors to the Copley Square memorial. He also describes seeing how many people felt compelled to sign their name on items at the memorial.
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