With temperatures hovering below 40 degrees and wind gusts over 30 miles per hour, the Jamaica Plain community came together Wednesday night to reject the shocking violence that last Sunday sent gunshots tearing through Centre Street, leaving a bystander wounded and three youths dead.
The vigil was held on the lawn of the First Baptist Church.
Prior to the peace vigil, Pastor Ashlee Wiest-Laird addressed her congregation inside the church.
She told them "to pray for peace in this neighborhood, in this city, and this world."
"In the midst of difficult circumstances," she said. "We come together to give thanks."
As members of the congregation left the warmth of the church's sanctuary, a crowd that soon numbered nearly 200 people joined them. Candles were distributed but struggled to stay lit in the biting wind. Some huddled silently in the cold, lost in their private thoughts. Others sought comfort in hushed conversations with their neighbors.
"When our house was being renovated, we ate at Same Old Place every night," said JP resident Nancy Doherty, who has lived in JP for 40 years.
"I am devastated. But I am thankful for the community."
Local artist Michelle Audet was away on a trip and learned about the killings when she returned home.
"This is horrible," she said. "And it's scary." When asked why she had decided to stand in the cold on Thanksgiving eve, she said forcefully, "This is my community!"
Washington Street resident Danilo Morales said he had come to the vigil because he "wanted to get involved. I hope to make connections with the people here so we can work together to prevent this from happening again."
A parka-clad woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, reflected on the social causes of the crime.
"JP is segregated by race, language, culture, ethnicity, and income," she said. "I am very saddened that these young people felt like they had nothing to look forward to."
Laura Foner, Children's Librarian at the Connolly Branch of the Boston Public Library, said that the shootings had "brought the violence home."
"I worry that the kids I see in the library could become victims, too," she said.
On the windy lawn, Carlos Aredondo held a rainbow flag while his wife clutched a peace sign and three flickering candles. In Spanish, Aredondo said he and his wife had raised their family here, and that his children had gone to school down the street.
"We ate pizza at that restaurant many times," he said, gesturing in the direction of Same Old Place.
After some discussion with a Boston police officer, Pastor Wiest-Laird told a reporter the crowd had spontaneously decided that they wanted to march. Led by Aredondo, with his rainbow flag held aloft, the vigil proceeded down the street, flanked by officers on motorcycles.
The police stopped traffic so the procession could cross Centre Street.
As it filed past Same Old Place, two red-shirted restaurant workers, visible from the shop window, stopped rolling pizza dough and flashed the crowd peace signs as they passed.