BOSTON -- In one photo, Aaron Hern rises tentatively from his wheelchair, his mother and father watching and helping as he appears to test the strength in his legs.
In another, he looks on as his mother, Katherine, is overcome with emotion as they return to what was supposed to be a place of joy but was instead the site of shocking tragedy.
Surrounded by media, the 11-year-old Martinez boy on Thursday returned to Boylston Street, where 10 days earlier, he was one of 270 people injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed in the April 15 attacks.
Aaron, who needed two surgeries to repair injuries to his leg when he was struck by shrapnel, was healthy enough to return to the finish line. He and his family had traveled to Boston to cheer on his mother, Katherine, as she ran the race.
No one else in Aaron's group of family and friends was injured.
The family was met by photographers and members from local media affiliates, according to Sandra Hall, a friend of the family who traveled with them to support Katherine and has remained in Boston since the bombings.
"He's doing well," Hall said. "He's back to being a normal, silly 11-year-old boy."
Aaron has been released from Boston Children's Hospital and is staying close to doctors, because he is still undergoing treatments. Hall said he has been cleared to resume all normal activities "but he has to stop when he gets tired."
"He can't swim or submerge his leg in water," she said. "But he can take showers and everything else."
The Martinez Junior High School student also has been spending his time poring over the thousands of cards and letters sent to him from throughout the country, she said.
"He's looked at the cards and the gifts, and I think it's hit him," Hall said. "He said, 'Look at all these people who have given me something, and a lot of them I don't even know.'"
Aaron has not been cleared to return home yet, Hall said. That hurdle is expected to be cleared sometime next week.
"You know 11-year-old boys," Hall said. "They have that normal, silly sense of humor that the rest of us don't have.
"His is back."
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.