Marian Wilson picked over her tuna sandwich on rye as men in white jumpsuits slowly paced the street behind her looking for evidence.
She tried not to notice.
"I just go in and out of being completely freaked out," Wilson said, sitting alone with a book in the outdoor patio of Stephanie's on Newbury, a restaurant a block from the site of Monday's bombings that left three dead and more than 170 wounded.
Many of the area's shops and outdoor cafes re-opened under bright sunny skies Wednesday, but the return to normalcy, for Wilson and thousands of others who live and work in this Back Bay neighborhood, was only beginning. One street over, a seven-block swath of the normally-bustling Boylston Street was shuttered as investigators scoured the area for clues. Scores of National Guard troops gathered among armored Humvees in the nearby Boston Common. And hand-written signs declaring "Boston will overcome" hung outside Newbury Street's high-end boutiques.
Wilson, a 40-year-old teacher who felt the blasts from her nearby apartment, lunched alongside blue police barriers as passersby clicked photos and others left flowers to honor the victims.
"I still can't process it," Wilson said, visibly shaken and staring at her Bloody Mary. "It's just so sad."
Pat Wynn, a 24-year-old bartender from Nantucket, sipped a beer outside The Rattlesnake Bar and Grill, a Boylston Street establishment allowed to open Wednesday as investigators began to narrow the restricted zone.
"It's almost like walking through a dream," Wynn said as people gathered a block away to take pictures of the deserted street that marked the Boston Marathon finish line 48 hours earlier.
Elsewhere, television trucks clogged parks and intersections as media from across the country packed into the area.
Marjorie Bowes, a neighborhood resident for the last 50 years, sat alone on a park bench along the Commonwealth Avenue mall as a television camera crew tossed a baseball and puffed cigars to pass the time between live shots.
She was listening to the roar of the marathon crowd through an open window on Monday, just before the bomb blasts scared her cats and shattered a crystal bowl.
"It was just a horrible sad feeling. I try not to think about it," she said in a forest of television satellite trucks.
Back at Stephanie's on Newbury, Wilson said she's torn between the memories of that day and the need to look ahead. With a smile, she pointed to the words scribbled in blue chalk on the pavement next to her table: "Keep your head up and your heart strong."