The tragedy at the Boston Marathon shook America to its core, but the heartache was particularly profound for residents of Newtown, Conn., who flocked to the race to honor the victims of last year's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The Newtown Strong Fund dedicated each mile of the 26.2-mile race to one of the 26 victims of the shooting, which included 20 first-graders and six educators gunned down at the school.
Runners held a 26-second moment of silence at the beginning of the race, and a special marker bearing the city seal of Newtown was placed at the 26-mile mark. The marker was surrounded by 26 stars.
The half-dozen members of the Newtown Strong Team who ran the race all finished the marathon before the blast, and the group said on its Facebook page that everyone was OK.
Lisa Abrams, whose husband, Thomas, ran with the group, told the Connecticut Post her husband sent her a text about the explosion.
"Newtown cannot handle any more of this," Lisa Abrams said. "We don't need any more stress, no more heartache.''
Before the race, Newtown Strong Fund spokeswoman Laura Nowacki, whose daughter survived the shooting, spoke about how crucial it would be to reach that last, symbolic mile marker.
"We're going to sprint like we ran that day to get to our children," Nowacki said, "and we're going to fly like those little kids flew to get out of that horror and to get to the firehouse, and we're just going to let it all out and run for the freedom and that full on love of life that those kids had."