Yesterday I pulled to the side of the road, listening to initial reports of a bombing along the route of the Boston Marathon. Later I watched horrific images on the television. I thought ‘these are my people’.
I grew up in Rhode Island less than an hour from Boston. I went to graduate school in Newton on the Green Line, a few miles from Boston. From the school I’d run with several classmates along Commonwealth Avenue. Several times a week we’d run the iconic ‘heart break hills’ of Boston, those hills that come 2/3rds of the way into the Marathon. Of course, we were running just 5 miles or so and our legs were fresh. Many times we’d see Bill Rogers (Boston Billy) four time winner of the marathon, running the same route on his daily training route. We’d marvel at his effortless stride. We knew that we were on holy ground, running on the most famous stretch of road in America.
Several years on marathon day I was part of the crowd urging the runners along. One year I was at the finish line looking down the stretch of road for a buddy who was running his first Boston. The crowds each time were joyous. It was Patriots Day, a holiday that honored the regions love of liberty and reminded us that Springtime had finally come.
When the bombs went off several hours into the race, the best runners had long since returned to their hotel rooms. Of the 20,000 plus runners that day those who remained on the road were those who were running for very personal reasons. Some ran in memory of a loved one who had died of cancer, others simply for their health and the sake of challenge. For them finishing was what mattered.
These were the ones that the crowd waited for. Those who had conquered heart-break hill and deserved the applause of family and friends. It is a time-honored tradition to remain at the finish line until the last runner crosses.
Then everything changed, the two bombs went off. Three were killed, including an eight year old child. Over 140 were raced to hospitals with limbs torn off and shrapnel wounds.
Less than a week ago I was in Boston, in part to visit my family and soak up the hometown atmosphere. The Sox were opening at Fenway and every tavern and deli TV was tuned to the game. The Red Sox and the Marathon have a way of unifying a community. And now that community is in shock, grieving for those who have lost loved ones and for those traumatized physically and emotionally.
One person who was interviewed at the scene said :”Whoever did this chose the wrong town. In Boston we are tough, we take care of each other. I’m not going to let whoever did this take away what is important to me which is my commitment to this community.”
These are my people. God bless Boston and all who mourn.