Boston's a special place for me, as most of the G:TB community knows. It's where my parents, grandparents, and generations of family members before them were born and raised.
I ran my first (and I thought most likely only) marathon last November. I don't really know why I decided to do it, but I very clearly recall the emotions that ran through my mind as I crossed the finish line. I thought about my late father and how proud he'd be of me, and tears of both joy and loss flowed freely. Also, probably, of exhaustion.
And so, with these things in mind, Monday's attacks on the Boston Marathon felt particularly personal to me. People shouldn't lose their limbs, or be moved to scream in terror, or be killed in any venue, let alone a celebration of human endurance and resolve. For that to happen in my family's home was one thing. For it to rob so many of their hard-won feelings of accomplishment, and their emotional release as they crossed the finish line in honor of their mother, or in memory of their best friend, or in triumph over their own personal limits struck me as inconceivably cowardly and cruel, and made me nothing so much as angry.
I remember feeling after 9/11 that things had irrevocably changed; that the scale and scope of the attacks on America represented a sea change in how we viewed the world as a people. My overwhelming emotion was a kind of numb, fearful sadness. I think that feeling was widely shared, and history will look back unkindly at the last decade, about how we let fear and sadness dictate a national response that reverberates forward.
Today, though, I remain resolutely furious at what happened in Boston. In the best tradition of that town, with its odd mix of Puritan stoicism and Irish/Italian temper, its elitist intellect and blue-collar pugnacity, my reaction remains a hearty, 'fuck you' to the sick bastards who did this. Kevin Cullen from the Boston Globe said on CNN, 'We take only three things seriously here: that's sports, politics, and revenge.' He spoke of a deep sadness followed by resoluteness, and about the communal middle finger Boston was lifting towards the perpetrator(s). I sense a similar reaction from most of you, and a heartening percentage of the people I see writing, tweeting, and talking about the attacks. If the 2013 Boston Marathon is remembered as the moment in time when we regained our footing as a people, that won't be a fair trade for the three dead and scores wounded, but it'll be a worthy memorial to them.
Monday's attacks had another connection with the generations of my family. Tom Meagher has been the finish line coordinator at the Boston Marathon for the last 17 years. He's also been a summer resident of Brewster Park in Brewster, MA for more than three decades. Park families, including mine, know him as 'Coach' - he's been responsible for organizing kids' activities at BPC for 30 years, coaching sports, coordinating parties, and serving annually as the emcee for the Park's 4th of July parade. He leads the assembled Parkies in the pledge of allegiance before the parade, and he makes it a habit of introducing any veterans in attendance. He's organized the annual Brew Run for more than 20 years, raising more than $200,000 for charity (it's perhaps the only race we'll ever get Clarence to run - it starts and ends at The Woodshed, my friend). I don't know many that are more civic-minded and patriotic.
The Boston Globe profiled Meagher two years ago. They asked what he does when the race ends, and he gave an answer sure to please this readership, saying, "When it’s all over, I find my way back to the Copley Hotel. I go to the hospitality suite, put my feet up, and have a cold beer."
Coach was at the finish line yesterday, just like he's been for the last 17 years. You can see him in the video below:
He, like many others, ran towards the blast to help a fallen runner. He, like so many Bostonians, stood up against fear and terror. And he, like all of us, will cheer the runners that finish the 2014 Boston Marathon.