Boston native, Liam Day, attempts to make sense of yesterday’s tragic events and what they mean for the city and event he loves.
New York, Oklahoma City, London, Belfast, Madrid, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Mumbai. It would appear that we can now add Boston, the city I grew up in and went to college in and have lived in pretty much ever since, to the list of cities that have suffered terrorist attacks.
In the wake of yesterday’s bombing, I can’t help think of the terrible irony that Boston has always had a chip on its shoulder about being a world class city. I don’t think anyone ever wished that this would be the way we would attain that status.
But today is not a day to analyze, it is a day to mourn. It is a day to mourn those we have lost and those who were injured. It is a day to measure our mortality in the face of violence that was brutal and arbitrary and, therefore, without meaning, a violence that, because it has no meaning, cannot be fully processed and, therefore, will linger long after the sidewalks have been cleaned of the blood and debris.
It is also a day to mourn the permanent damage done to a day, and an event, that annually represents the best my city has to offer.
Marathon Monday—Patriots Day—is my favorite day of the year. For 364 days, we are, perhaps, the rudest city in America. We walk down the street with our eyes fixed straight ahead and, if anyone says, “Good Morning,” we give them, at best, a sidelong glance and a curt nod.
Marathon Monday, though, is a seasonal ritual, a ceremony, almost, to honor the gods that restore the earth to splendor after winter’s long hibernation. Every spring, as the last dirty snowbanks melt and we can finally put away the thick winter jackets and, maybe, though not always, turn off the heat, Boston’s denizens emerge from their homes and their dorms to line the 26.2 mile course from Hopkinton to Copley Square.
Marathon Monday, we are all smiles, especially when, like yesterday, the sun is fighting to break through the intermittent clouds that keep temperatures cool for the runners. We greet strangers in the crowds and we cheer them on the course.
Winding their way up Route 135 through Ashland and Framingham and Natick, past the screaming undergraduates at Wellesley College, staying on Route 16 where it splits with 135, up Comm. Ave. and what is known, erroneously, as Heartbreak Hill, past Boston College, swinging down Chestnut Hill Ave. to Cleveland Circle and then up Beacon Street to Kenmore—where, the Sox game having started, as it does every Marathon Monday, at the odd hour of 11:05AM, the Fenway crowd is spilling onto the streets and the noise swells with them—hanging a right on Hereford and, finally, a left on Boylston, the finish line now within sight, the runners—from the elite, who come here every year to participate in the world’s oldest marathon, to the recreational runners who scored a number because they’re running to raise money for a charitable cause—are greeted by the best hospitality Boston has to offer. There is, on this one day every year, a solidarity between runners—and between runners and crowds—that, sadly, we lack most of the rest of the year.
On Marathon Monday, there are no outsiders in Boston, a city often defined by those who are from here and those who are not. There is a popular phrase – Originally From Dorchester or, shortened, OFD – which you will see on bumper stickers and decals. Dorchester, where the young boy who was killed yesterday lived, is Boston’s largest neighborhood, comprising one-eighth of its geography and roughly one-sixth of its population. I grew up in a neighborhood not three miles away. I moved to Dorchester right after college in 1995. I have lived there and worked there and volunteered coaching basketball there ever since. I am still an outsider.
But not on Marathon Monday I’m not. Nor is anyone else. Marathon Monday is the one day people who aren’t from here are welcome to come here and clog our streets and we’ll smile and say hello. It is the one day when the college kids and the townies will scream and cheer in unison. It is the day that brings out the best in my city. It is why I love it.
Have the perpetrators of yesterday’s violence robbed us of the sense of joy and solidarity the marathon offers? I hope not. I would miss it. I know it is selfish of me to think of that so soon after the devastating events. Loved ones are mourning those who are gone and spectators, including The Good Men Project’s own Lisa Hickey, are recovering from the shock of having been caught between the bombs.
Still, I fervently hope the Boston Marathon remains for the next 117 years a showcase for the city I love. I hope that it remains the spring ritual that brings students out of their dorms and families from all over the city and its suburbs to line a 26.2-mile ribbon of asphalt traversed by some of the world’s greatest athletes.
I hope that we continue, on that day, to greet strangers and smile at the world. I hope we don’t turn away in fear and suspicion because, sadly, that is too often what we do the rest of the year.
As horrific as yesterday’s events were, we cannot let them define us, define our city, define our signature event. It is for us to define them, not cowards who would plant bombs.