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With every new tragedy, another 'strong' campaign

By The Associated Press
Posted 4:37PM on Thursday 8th August 2019 ( 1 year ago )

BOSTON (AP) — In Ohio, a heart-shaped mural with the phrase "Dayton Strong" hangs in front of the bar where a gunman killed nine people.

In Texas, "El Paso Strong," written in red, white and blue, adorns homemade banners after a shooter killed 22 at a Walmart.

In California, where a gunman killed three people at a garlic festival, black fundraising T-shirts bear the words "#GilroyStrong."

"Strong" has become an inescapable part of how this country heals after tragedy. It's embedded in social media posts, makeshift memorials, pins, stickers and other mementos of grief.

But before Dayton Strong, El Paso Strong and Gilroy Strong memorialized the nation's latest shootings, there was Boston Strong.

The phrase was the city's rallying cry after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded scores more at the finish line of the storied race.

"Jersey Strong" was a refrain for some after Superstorm Sandy inflicted damage in New York and New Jersey in 2012, but T-shirts that used "Boston Strong" in the wake of the marathon bombing helped push the phrase into the national lexicon.

Christopher Dobens, who helped create those shirts, says he has mixed feelings about the unexpected legacy.

"It's heartbreaking to see that it keeps having to come up," the now 25-year-old Beverly, Massachusetts, resident, said Wednesday. "That's the part that hurts the most. That so many places around the world are having to use this mantra because they're being hit with terrible tragedies."

Dobens was a student at Boston's Emerson College when he and fellow student Nicholas Reynolds decided to create T-shirts to help raise money for victims in the hours after the terror attack.

Inspired by cyclist Lance Armstrong's Livestrong cancer foundation and the U.S. Army's "Army Strong" slogan, Dobens said they initially came up with: "Stay strong, Boston strong."

They cut it down simply to Boston Strong and printed it out in bold, yellow letters on blue T-shirts — the colors of the Boston Marathon. The shirts went on to raise $1 million for the city's fund for victims as well as other local charities.

In the years since, it has been used after mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; a country music festival in Las Vegas; and the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, among others.

And it's not just shootings.

"Houston Strong" described the Texas city after Hurricane Harvey barreled through in 2017, causing 68 deaths.

"I had no idea it would ever manifest itself this way," said Armstrong, who resigned from the Livestrong charity in 2012 after his doping scandal. "I think it signifies confidence and reminds people that we can come back or recover."

Dobens said that as long as people are using the phrase for the right reasons, he supports it.

"Looking to help those who are in need, that's really the heart of it," he said. "It's about making sure we're a community and that we're all in this together and helping each other through these dark times."

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Follow Philip Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo.

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2019 file photo, a pedestrian passes a makeshift memorial for the slain and injured victims of a mass shooting that occurred in the Oregon District early Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio. Ever since “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry after the Boston Marathon bombing, the idea of “strong” has become an inescapable part of how this country heals after tragedy. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2019 file photo, a banner is raised bearing the hashtag "#DAYTONSTRONG" in the Oregon District after a mass shooting that occurred early Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio. People mourning this past weekend’s mass shootings in Ohio and Texas have rallied around the slogans “Dayton Strong” and “El Paso Strong.” (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2019 file photo, a man hangs up an "El Paso Strong" sign at a makeshift memorial at the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas. A white nationalist angered at Latino immigration opened fire at a Walmart Saturday. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2019 file photo, Monica Charter organizes a table of freshly printed El Paso Strong t-shirts at Proper Printshop in El Paso, Texas, with proceeds earmarked to the El Paso Community Foundation's El Paso Shooting Victim's Fund. Ever since “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry after the Boston Marathon bombing, the idea of “strong” has become an inescapable part of how this country heals after tragedy. (Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times via AP, File)
FILE - In this July 30, 2019 file photo, Rita Vadnais works at selling "#GilroyStrong" T-shirts, with proceeds benefiting shooting victims, at Windermere Real Estate in Gilroy, Calif., after a gunman killed two children and a 25-year-old at the Gilroy Garlic Festival the previous weekend. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)
FILE - In this April 21, 2014 file photo, Rob Ordman, of Calgary Alberta, Canada, wears the slogan "Boston Strong" on his head near the finish line before the start of 118th Boston Marathon in Boston, in support of his wife Beth, who was running in the race. Massachusetts resident Christopher Dobens co-created the blue and yellow “Boston Strong” t-shirts that helped rocket the phrase into the national lexicon. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2018 file photo, Jim Strickland, of Oroville, Calif., writes a message on a cross at a makeshift memorial for the 58 victims killed in an Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting in Las Vegas. “Strong” has become an inescapable part of how this country heals when unspeakable tragedy strikes. It’s embedded in social media posts, makeshift memorials, pins, stickers and other assorted mementos of grief. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2016 file photo, a banner that was hung shortly after the terror attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino Calif., shows a year's worth of wear a year after the attack that killed 22 people on Dec. 2, 2015. Ever since “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry after the Boston Marathon bombing, the idea of “strong” has become an inescapable part of how this country heals after tragedy. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP, File)
FILE - In this June 12, 2016 file photo, people holds signs at a vigil in Cal Anderson Park in Seattle for the victims of a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Ever since “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry after the Boston Marathon bombing, the idea of “strong” has become an inescapable part of how this country heals after tragedy. (Genna Martin/seattlepi.com via AP, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2017 file photo, a "Houston Strong" sticker is added to the helmet of Houston Texans players prior to an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Houston, two weeks after Hurricane Harvey pounded the city. Ever since “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry after the Boston Marathon bombing, the idea of “strong” has become an inescapable part of how this country heals after tragedy. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2018, file photo, a student walks past an "MSDSTRONG" banner on the way to class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A gunman killed 17 people at the school on Feb. 14. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2005 file photo, Michael Hamlet, of Milford, Mass, shows off his yellow shoes as he crosses the finish line at the Lance Armstrong Foundation's Ride for the Roses in Austin, Texas. The foundation was founded in 1997 by cancer survivor and champion cyclist, Lance Armstrong. The Livestrong brand was launched by the foundation in 2003. Ever since “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry after the Boston Marathon bombing, the idea of “strong” has become an inescapable part of how this country heals after tragedy. (Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman via AP, File )

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