Boston Never Backs Down
When I lived in the Boston area, Patriots’ Day was always my favorite day of the year. It’s Beantown’s version of Mardi Gras, except families are welcome and the parade is the ultimate display of physical fitness and mental toughness. A state holiday commemorating the first battles of the Revolutionary War, Patriots’ Day is the perfect excuse to take the day off, welcome spring, and take your place at the 26.2-mile street fair from Hopkinton to Copley Square. In addition to the annual Boston Marathon, the Red Sox play an 11 AM game at Fenway and, win or lose, the fans always leave happy as they cheer on the runners passing through the home stretch of Kenmore Square.
Patriots’ Day in Boston is a community event with international appeal and a festive atmosphere that can be felt throughout the state—from bars and backyard barbecues to office buildings where coworkers take their lunch in front of conference room TVs tuned in to marathon coverage or the Sox game. So when I saw the first tweet about an explosion at the finish line and clicked the first link to a photo of the devastation, my heart sank to a depth it hadn’t reached since 9/11, with an additional pain that hit me on a very personal level. Because while 9/11 was by far the worst national tragedy I have ever experienced, prior to 2001, September 11 held no significance for me. It was just another box on the calendar that was about to become the most tragic day of my life. Yesterday’s attack on Patriots’ Day was not just an unforgivable assault on innocent people, it was an excruciating sucker punch on a day that for more than 100 years has been a source of joy and pride for the city of Boston, the whole of New England, and people from all walks of life.
Patriots’ Day is supposed to be a special day, where a little kid like 8-year-old Martin Richard from Dorchester, MA, can eat junk food, take in the sights of the big city, and clap and cheer for his father who must have looked like a superhero as he ran to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. After giving his dad a congratulatory hug, Martin should have excitedly walked away from Boylston Street with his mother and sister, celebrated his father’s accomplishment way past his normal bedtime, and enjoyed the rest of his school vacation week. That Patriots’ Day 2013 was Martin Richard’s last day on Earth hurts me in a way I find impossible to articulate. My heart breaks for Martin, his family, and all the other innocent victims of yesterday’s attack on a day that has always been synonymous with the best that Boston has to offer.
While so many questions are yet to be answered, the one thing we know for sure is Patriots’ Day in Boston will never be the same. But it WILL be back. Vigils will be held. Tears will be shed. Justice will be sought and changes will be made. Then this time next year, the marathon will be back, the Sox will play another matinee game at Fenway, and thousands upon thousands of people will line the marathon route and shout their support louder than ever.
Because while Boston is not invulnerable to the despicable actions of hateful individuals, the city and the people who live there never cower, never forget, and never back down.