This feels personal. Boston is the big city we know best after living in New England for over thirty years. Despite growing up a big sports fan in Jersey, I now root for the Patriots and the Sox. Living just an hour north of Boston, we have family and friends who live there. Our son Will goes there often. I’ve been to Fenway Park and watched the Boston Marathon in person. Living in New England feels like family.
Let me tell you, there is no better day in Boston than Patriots Day. It’s a celebration of spring, the buzz of happy crowds away from their daily routines of work and school waiting for runners who have trained all winter, supported by family and friends. It’s a day when we cheer for people we don’t even know. Except for a very few, no one runs to win the race. They run to raise money for worthy causes, challenge themselves, check off a bucket list item, or because 26 miles of running is just what they do.
She had trained all winter, raised over $6000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and doggedly fought the elements and finished with a time of 4 hours 2 minutes. Remember that time.
Fast forward six years, if Molly had run the same pace in this year’s marathon, she would have crossed the finish line minutes before the first of the two bombs exploded at 4 hours and 9 minutes. She would have been milling around the finish line in her thermal wrap and to collect her finisher’s medal. We would have been at the finish line looking for her. Amazing how random life seems.
Six years ago I was teaching at the University of New England on the day when Molly was to run her marathon. It was heart breaking not to share that moment with her, but I had to teach that day. On campus in Biddeford, Maine at 830A for a meeting, I was ready for a day of getting updates from Hannah about Molly’s progress. Fortuitously that morning a storm was brewing (the same storm that produced those strong winds for the marathon) and amazingly it blew a major tree over wires to campus and the university was closed by 9A!
Like a bat out of hell, I headed south from Biddeford, Maine, two hours north of Boston, to be a part of the Boston Marathon scene. With everyone at the race and the Red Sox game at Fenway Park already begun, it was really quite easy to get into the city along Storrow Drive on this crazy, wonderful Patriots Day (which commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution at Concord and Lexington in 1775).
We camped out at Kenmore Square for Molly to come by. Despite how gassed she must have been, she was cruising and loving life as we cheered her on. We then meandered down to the finish line in this party atmosphere of the young and old just enjoying being alive on this windy day.
No longer will an 8 year old and two others know the sunshine and soul affirming joy of just being alive on a spring day in New England. Our niece Tara who lives in Boston says in the aftermath, I still don’t feel completely safe – even though there are extra police and army men all over.
My childhood friend Tom from Radburn who works in Boston responded to my email about his thoughts on this day thusly:
I’ve just returned from chapel at the UUA, feeling grateful that I work in a place that allows us time and space on a day like today.
It has shaken me to have an attack like this–one that could only harm the innocent– happen in our city, our home.
I grieve for people I don’t know, who lost so much so quickly. Especially the Richards family in Dorchester who lost their 8 year old son, and whose daughter and mother remain in the hospital.
And I am aware that others around the world live with this kind of violence and unpredictability every day.
I am sobered that someone thought their pain would be eased–or their cause advanced–by maiming and killing people they didn’t know who were bound together in this moment only by their desire to cheer a friend or family member across the finish line.
These words from the Haggadah we used at our Seder this year have been with me.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out Hate: Only love can do that.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I wish you all light and love today–Tom
And Hannah has the last word.
United we Stand
Even the Red Sox and the NY Yankees came together, “Sweet Caroline” and all.
Yes, those who would do their best to tear and rip others apart – women and children, no less – are nothing short of cowardly beasts. Malevolent, indeed.
Those who would do what they did in Boston have lost their humanity, no longer qualify as human. Yet, in response we stand…united, selflessly, compassionately, sure and secure in our humanity. We will not become like them. Instead, we become even more purely and utterly human….displaying the best of who and what we are. May Love continue to be the arrows in our quiver. And may the target be each other. Like the Amish, let us respond with Love…even more Love, towards one another.
Once again, united we stand – and love, fearlessly and tirelessly. Terror is no match for Love.
By the way: President Obama must have been channeling me when he wrote his inspirational speech for the Inter-faith service in Boston Thursday. I wrote my lead sentence two days before his speech.