Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts is steeped in tradition. Heralding the start of spring, the day commemorates the beginning of a war that led to the birth of a nation. As the sun rises, thousands of spectators descend upon Lexington Green for a reenactment of the Battle of Lexington, the start of the Revolutionary War. In Boston, the city is bustling as families file into Fenway Park for the annual Red Sox day game, scheduled every year since 1959. The Sox play at 11 a.m., so after the game wraps up spectators can make their way to Copley Square to catch the finish of what is one of the city’s greatest traditions: the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world, dating back to 1897, and one of the six World Major Marathons, drawing the best runners from around the globe.
Tens of thousands of spectators gather to cheer on the competitors, who have trained years for this race, to marvel at their endurance, and to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit as each exhausted athlete crosses the finish line. And this year’s marathon started out just the way they always have … and then, the explosions. Two cowards attempted to desecrate the spirit of the marathon and dissolve the unity of a city, and a country – and they failed.
As the smoke cleared, stories emerged of heroic first responders and selfless bystanders breaking down metal barriers to reach the victims, competitors who continued running past the finish line to Mass General to donate blood, area residents who opened up their homes to out-of-town visitors who were displaced from their hotels. One after another, we heard reports of heroes who compromised their own safety for the sake of others. A tragedy that took the lives of three innocent people and injured hundreds of others required people to answer the call for help, and they did, without hesitating. The city was shaken, but far from broken. The people of Boston showed the world what courage looks like, and proved that goodness will always prevail over evil. Always.
In the days following the marathon, the community struggled to regain some sense of normalcy. Residents were eager to take back their city and begin to heal. For a city like Boston, home of some of the most loyal sports fans in the world, the way to get back into the game was to get back into the game.
First, the Bruins, who returned to the Garden two days after the bombings to play a game highlighted by a tribute to the victims and first responders and the loudest and most moving version of the National Anthem I’ve ever heard, performed by the 17,565 Bruins fans in attendance.
Next, the Red Sox made their return to Fenway. Following an emotional pregame ceremony honoring the victims and heroes of that day, Beantown’s favorite slugger, David Ortiz, roused the crowd of 35,000-plus with his passionate declaration that, “This is our @&%$ city, and NOBODY is going to dictate our freedom.”
It was exactly what Bostonians needed, assurance that it was OK to get back to life. To get back to playing ball and celebrating the victories of the players, and each other, and their city. There is still a lot of healing left to do, and the pain from the tragedy may linger forever, but Boston will not be defeated. And next year, on the third Monday in April, when the world’s greatest runners gather to compete in the world’s oldest marathon, tens of thousands of people will come to cheer them on and continue to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit.