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Stranded, displaced, hurt in Boston? How thousands of Bostonians are reaching out to the needy

Jackie Pickering holds a flower outside the barricaded entrance at Boylston Street near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts April 16, 2013. Two bombs packed with ball bearings tore through crowds near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and triggering a massive hunt for those behind an attack the White House said would be treated as "an act of terror."


The weather forecast isn't the only thing that's showing sun and warmth in Boston today. The homes, cars, pocketbooks and open arms of over 6,000 residents of the city are, too.

In the wake of two explosions at the finish line of Monday's Boston Marathon, Bostonians are reaching out to those displaced, injured or in any way impacted by the blasts. At noon on Tuesday, 6,209 people had posted on a public Google spreadsheet with locations and contact information, and what they could offer those in need.

Jill Briscoe, mother of four and a resident of Essex, offered to pick people up in Boston's downtown and transport them to her home for a good night's sleep, where sirens weren't blaring and the atmosphere was safe and welcoming.

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Briscoe says she added her name to the site not only because she felt helpless after seeing yesterday's news reports, but also because she knew it was right.

"I'm a follower of Jesus," she said in a phone interview Tuesday. "He says to put our money where our mouth is, so it's great to pray for people and hope the situation will improve, but you also need to put that into action."

Ms. Briscoe didn't receive calls from anyone stranded in Boston, but she travelled into the city anyway Tuesday morning to pray and talk with athletes and spectators still in the area.

A former runner, she understands the pain that appeared on the streets yesterday. A nightmare, she called it, to lose a limb and end your career – and a tragedy to lose an eight-year-old boy.

It's a juxtaposition of good and evil, love and hate; a city street, stained with blood and haunted with screams and tears, being embraced with an outpouring of love from neighbours.

Jerri Milbank lives just outside the city in Westborough. She was the second to post on the spreadsheet after its creation Monday night.

Ms. Milbank is feeling the love from others as well.

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"I can't tell you how many people from around the world have e-mailed me to say thank you," she wrote in an e-mail. "I haven't even done anything."

But tweets by Ramsey Mohsen and runner Ali Hatfield suggest otherwise, that the outreach from Bostonians was appreciated.

"There is love in this world. A sweet woman opened her home to us," Ms. Hatfield tweeted Monday.

Mr. Mohsen tweeted, "Thank you. I can't say it enough. Countless messages, acts of kindness, help, and prayers from all of you. Thank you."

Milbank may not have even done anything in her mind, but perhaps it's enough that she, along with Briscoe and thousands of others, have put others before themselves.

One suburban Boston resident, Lei Li, is willing to make financial sacrifices for others in the aftermath of the bombing.

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Ms. Li, unable to offer a room in her home, posted on the spreadsheet saying, "I live far from [the city], but can help book you a hotel room near Boston (on me)."

And at what cost?

"I'm just an ordinary woman trying to do my part to support each other," Ms. Li said. "I have two young kids, and money matters to me … but I want to do this, to help people in need. If it means I'll have to skip this year's vacation, so be it."

A warm, bright gesture from Boston on a day when the hearts and minds of so many are dark.

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