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On anniversary of tragedy, city urges acts of kindness

By nature, anniversaries are reasons to look back. But on Wednesday, the two-year anniversary of the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombings, the idea is to look forward.

The city is hoping the spotlight swings away from the pain and suffering of that day and lands on those who are dedicated to helping others, just as people helped those in need two years ago. That’s why Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh declared April 15 to be “One Boston Day,” and urged people to make it a day of community service and random acts of kindness.

“It’s a day for us to really, truly rally around the city of Boston and continue the great tradition of this city,” Walsh said in a video posted to the initiative’s website. “To make sure that One Boston Day is one we’ll never forget as far as giving back, taking something that was tragic and turning it into a very positive thing, not only for the city but for the entire region.”

The city is urging people to share what they’re doing for One Boston Day on social media, using the hashtag #OneBostonDay.

Karen McWatters lost her best friend, Krystle Campbell, and her left leg in the bombing. But these days she’s back on her feet, walking well on her latest prosthetic, which includes a hydraulic foot to help with hills -- a constant in her life, which she splits between Somerville and Portland, Maine.

Like many other survivors, McWatters is doing what she can for others, sharing the overflowing support she’s received with a 16-year-old girl from El Salvador who also lost her leg.

“I’m really happy that the mayor chose to ... put the spotlight on service,” McWatters said. “So many people stepped up to help out and go above and beyond what people needed to do. ... I think myself and a lot of the other severely injured people have gone on to do great things and wonderful things to help other people. [Survivors] don’t always want the spotlight to be on themselves, but on the people they've decided to help.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

To honor those who were lost and those who were saved but found their lives forever changed, there will be a banner-raising ceremony outside the former Forum Bar & Restaurant on Boylston Street, site of one of the bomb blasts, on Wednesday morning.

The mayor is also asking people to observe a moment of silence at 2:49 p.m. ET, the time of the first explosion. Church bells will ring across the city following the moment of silence.

McWatters won’t be in Boston on Wednesday, for One Boston Day, or on Monday, for the 119th running of the Boston Marathon. But she says it’s just because she doesn't want the spotlight to be on her this time.

“Truthfully, I don’t think much about it, the anniversary or the marathon,” she said. “I don’t have any desire to go to the marathon anymore, but my family and friends all still go. ... I don’t think about the marathon as ‘Oh, the dreaded marathon’ or anything. I’m very happy that it’s gotten back to what it was and what it always should be, a great sporting event for the city of Boston and everybody.

“I think a terrible thing happened two years ago, but most people are trying to pick up and move on.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.