I’m a day late, but the absolute awesomosity of the Boston Marathon hasn’t left me yet (and yesterday I couldn’t write because I left for Miami at 6:00 a.m.), so here are five things that made this year’s Boston Marathon one of the best days of the year (or any year).
1. There were 36,000 runners (my friend Dan being one of them, who cruised to the end like he was taking a run in the park on a Saturday morning), more than a million spectators, and if you were part of either group (or just watching on tv) you could see that there is so much more good than there is bad in the world.
2. The weather Gods convened and said, “Yes, this day’s weather will be beautiful whether you are fleet of foot, or sitting on your gluteus maximus drinking a cold one.”
3. I saw runners with cameras on their hats, three sets of bunny ears, six tutus, one pink mohawk wig, a man with two blade legs, a man with no hands, a kid on crutches, numerous flag holders from numerous countries, hundreds of “Boston Strong” shirts, and hundreds more with the names of those lost in last year’s bombings emblazoned on their shirts, a blind runner, a disabled runner running with a guide, thousands of charity entrants, moms and daughters, fathers and sons, friends and for the last time Dick and Rick Hoyt. And every one of these people, I realized, had a story. It was emotional.
4. Spectators were excited and supportive and downright nice to each other. There was no jockeying for positions or snarky “get outta my way” looks on the sidelines. We were partners in bringing back the finish line.
5. There was one arrest for disorderly conduct. This thing went off without a hitch. It was everything that last year’s marathon wasn’t. It was resilience, athletic beauty (Rita Jeptoo beat the course record and Meb Keflezighi from San Diego placed first), grit, joy, and a polite fuck you to the ugliness that ground this city to a halt on April 15, 2013. We’re back. From heartbreak hill to Copley Square. This city is back up and running.
I went to the Marathon on Monday, just like I’ve done for the past 38 years. I guess maybe I’ve missed a few, in fact, I was in Miami with my daughter during the horrific marathon bombing, (which you can read about here and here and here, too) but mostly, I’ve been cheering from the sidelines during at least 35 of them. I have seen it from Park Drive and Beacon, the finish line when I lived on Newbury, Heartbreak Hill, and more recently Washington Square in Brookline. I’ve cheered for friends and acquaintances as they’ve made the trek. I’ve clapped until my hands hurt, and watched until I was nauseous.
Sometimes the weather is cold, so good for the runners, but bad for the spectators, and sometimes it’s hot, which nobody really loves. This year was warmer than ideal, but really nice. I brought my sister, who, despite living in the Boston area for a long time now, had never been! We didn’t stay long, because she was having some pain from a recent surgery. But even though I have been on the sidelines so many times, I still marvel at the guts and athleticism it takes to keep putting one foot after another for 26.2 miles. I always wanted to run this thing, but my running days ended after college, when I found out I had a herniated disc in my low back and had to put away my sneakers. I cherish this event for its soul (and sole). Every year it has stories of hope and help and heart. And whether you’re running or watching, everybody is part of the great tradition that is Boston, baby.
Grateful this historical and iconic race went off without a hitch, a backpack or a misstep. I will always love that dirty water.
I’m just going to say it, at the risk of being stoned by haters in front of my house: I don’t always love a Sox game. I adore my hometown team, I’m just not a maniac like the rest of my family or friends. But last night, some good friends asked us to go, and it was one of the MOST FUN GAMES I’ve ever been to. Sometimes things just line up like that. It didn’t hurt that it was their daughter, who I’ve known since she was four’s, twenty first birthday, and they surprised her with awesome seats in front of the dug out, which we went down to at the end of the game, which was a kick, and she got the jumbotron birthday message, and we slaughtered the Yankees.
Plus, you probably know this is Big Papi’s last season before retirement. A huge, burly teddy bear, this leader of Red Sox nation hits homers with an effortlessness that’s just stupid. I got to see one last night, and it was exactly what you’d want it to be. Here’s to the guy who said, “This is our fucking city,” in response to the Marathon bombings. It won’t really be the same without him. And of course, a very happy birthday to my girl Ellie! Kind of a great way to say hello to 21, even if you did bring that cute Yankees fan!
The following is from the Richards family, who lost their eight year old son Martin, and whose seven year old daughter Jane lost her leg in the marathon bombing on April 15, 2013.
I am grateful such people exist in this world.
I am sorry they have had to lose so much. I believe they are right, and hope the death penalty will not be the sentence for “the marathon bomber.”
Thank you for sharing your bravery, courage, and humanity Bill & Denise.
To end the anguish, drop the death penalty
In Bill and Denise Richard’s own words
The past two years have been the most trying of our lives. Our family has grieved, buried our young son, battled injuries, and endured numerous surgeries — all while trying to rebuild lives that will never be the same. We sat in the courtroom, day after day, bearing witness to overwhelming evidence that included graphic video and photographs, replicated bombs, and even the clothes our son wore his last day alive. We are eternally grateful for the courage and life-saving measures of first responders, Boston Police, the Boston Fire Department, and good Samaritans on April 15, 2013. We also thank the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice, and the Massachusetts US Attorney’s Office for leaving no stone unturned during the investigation and trial.
But now that the tireless and committed prosecution team has ensured that justice will be served, we urge the Department of Justice to bring the case to a close. We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal.
We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul. We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.
For us, the story of Marathon Monday 2013 should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the defendant, but by the resiliency of the human spirit and the rallying cries of this great city. We can never replace what was taken from us, but we can continue to get up every morning and fight another day. As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours. The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens is the minute we begin the process of rebuilding our lives and our family.
This is a deeply personal issue and we can speak only for ourselves. However, it is clear that peace of mind was taken not just from us, but from all Americans. We honor those who were lost and wish continued strength for all those who were injured. We believe that now is the time to turn the page, end the anguish, and look toward a better future — for us, for Boston, and for the country.
It used to be that The Curse of the Bambino plagued our fair city. But in my lifetime, and more impressively, in my children’s lifetime, the Red Sox have won the World Series three times. THREE. COUNT ‘EM. THREE. TIMES. It’s getting to be sort of a normal occurrence around here. Well, not really, but sort of.
My husband, who is an ivy league trained Ph.D chemist trying to cure Parkinson’s, would give up his career and family to be a professional baseball player. He is a walking statistical machine. He ought to have a website called “Stump the Pathetically Obsessed Baseball Guy.” He is constantly making baseball analogies. In fact, maybe his show should be called, “A Pathetically Obsessed Baseball Guy Talks Life as a Baseball Game.” He has always tried to teach me about the nuances, and strategy of the game. And just how much that little white ball says about life in general, but it just never really worked for me, and I basically zoned out when he would try and compare a traumatic event to a ball game.
Baseball is a little slow. Actually, a lot slow. It can be tedious, and very similar to watching grass grow. I mean, take me to a Celtics game, and I’m in. Things move FAST, there are dancers and monitors and crazy stuff happening all over the place. That’s my speed, but baseball, ugh, just not enough going on to keep my novice interest. I used to go to games before the kids, and then afterward, too. I basically just went for the Fenway Franks. But eventually, you could buy them in your grocer’s freezer case, and I just dropped out, letting Peter and the kids hold down the fort on this front, so we wouldn’t be asked to turn in our Boston residency cards (because if you’re not a Sox fan in this town, they ask you to leave).
Anyway, all three times the Sox have made it to the the World Series, it’s lit a fire under me, and I’ve maybe even gotten a little rabid. You just can’t ignore the craziness of this city when we have a sports team in a playoff situation. Nobody talks about anything else, everybody is sleepless-in-Seattle tired, and people all get very superstitious. I, myself, have five hats on the tv that COULD NOT BE MOVED. There’s also a large plastic Sox cup in the bathroom Peter was using to rinse off the dog’s muddy paws, and although it’s been irritating me, I have not moved it an inch since the series started. Last night on the news a guy talked about not changing his underwear or socks for three days. I am glad at least Peter isn’t that guy.
After the Boston Marathon bombing, this city was pretty depressed and freaked out and sad. The Sox supported Boston and came out swinging. They know that people love baseball here. They know that they’re a source of fun and a certain kind of glue. As Big Papi said at the time, “This is our fucking city.” You can hardly go anyplace where you don’t see a “Be Strong” t-shirt or hat on someone. The Sox adapted it be “B Strong,” and even mowed it into the field at Fenway. This team has been a source of pride and camaraderie as the city has had to heal from an unspeakably awful wound, that occurred during one of our other beloved sporting events.
Anyway, in case you live in a cave, The Boston Red Sox won the World Series last night, at the famed Fenway Park, their home, which hasn’t happened since 1918 (the year my mom was born). I stayed up way too late. I’m exhausted today. But guess what? I saw something I’d never seen before in this game, in this team, a life lesson–“Try your best. And then get out there and try harder.” There you go, Peter. I think I finally get it. I just might watch the whole season next year.
Doesn’t it sort of seem like we’re watching The Disaster Channel? I feel like the world is going to hell in a hand basket. In the past month alone, we’ve had the Boston Marathon bombing, the Texas fertilizer disaster and the Oklahoma tornado. While we watch on our televisions, and read on our computers, and newspapers (does anybody read the newspaper anymore, except my husband?), can we really take in such total devastation? I see the horror, try hard to conjure up the experience, but can you really know what losing your home, or you town, or you leg, would really be like unless you do?
And yet, these experiences devastate me, and get into the cracks of my soul like a noxious gas. They warn of life as you know it being taken away in a New York minute. They tell the story of everyday’s fragility in words and pictures, using someone else’s world as illustration. They scream out at you, like the guy with the sign that says, “The End is Near.”
And so instead of the fear that cripples, when these things happen, I am trying to go the way of the gratitude. Your house, which needs painting and new steps and a bathroom renovation is perfect. Your thighs, dimpled with the dreaded cellulite get you from place to place one foot in front of the other. Your face, getting wrinkled and the subject of your worry, forget it, it’s all good, the proof of a life fully lived. The perspective these disasters can pull out of us is the only good thing I can see. Life, unpredictable, is ours to squander or celebrate. The mundane is the gold. Do we only realize it when it’s taken from us. That’s too late. Today I will read about the people of Oklahoma and send my donation to wherever it will help, and then I will hug my life a little harder, notice all the flowers on my walk, and sing hallelujah for the piles of clothes in the middle of my kid’s rooms.
So, today I had about 17, 432 things to do. All of them urgent. But instead of doing any of them, which my head kept telling me to do, I did something my heart has been nagging at me to do. I wrote Boston a little note and I brought it down to the makeshift memorial at Copley Square, a few blocks from the marathon bombings.
I have been feeling a need to go there, to familiar Boylston street, the place where Boston’s history changed a few weeks ago. Much of my history is there, as well. I used to live 30 seconds away, on Newbury Street. In fact, when I lived there, I watched lots of Boston Marathons standing at the finish line. It’s also a street where I’d once waitressed, the location of my first job after college at a small design firm, and my first copywriting job at the advertising agency I would meet my husband because of. I had banked, and eaten and shopped and walked Boylston Street a million times. It runs through the heart of the city, like a fancy ribbon. And today, burdened by a laundry list of stuff to do, not to mention laundry, and waking up to the kind of New England weather that we New Englanders live for, I decided to ditch my “shoulds” and put my sneakers on and go and pay it a visit.
Walking through Boston is fun. When I lived downtown, I never had a car. In fact, I didn’t even own a car until I was 30, because I walked absolutely everywhere. Brookline, where I live, is right next to Boston, and on foot, it takes just about an hour to hit Boylston Street. This is the sort of thing I used to do a lot when I was younger and had more time on my hands (and feet). I went through the medical area and saw one of my neighbors, a doctor, like 100 feet large, advertising one of the hospitals. His happy face above the words “human first.” I strolled by Children’s, boasting that it had been named the number one children’s hospital in the country, and I thought about how lucky we are to live five minutes from this mecca of medicine. Holding my poster, I passed the doctor’s building who helped me to have Jake and Ally, my husband’s old lab, and then the Gardener Museum. I cut through the Fenway, and turned up on the far end of Boylston, after witnessing a flock of geese fighting in the muddy river (They were pissed. I don’t know if someone’s husband cheated, but it sounded like that might be it). Boylston was teeming with people. I walked by my old cross street, and thought about how much had changed since this had been my neighborhood for seven years after college.
I reached the block of the first bombing, but didn’t see much evidence, except that of The Forum Restaurant, which was still closed, but had a sign outside reading “Forum Strong, Coming Back Soon”. Next door, at Max Brenner’s restaurant, which was open, there were three Boston Red Sox logos with the word “strong” underneath. Other than that, the block seemed its usual bustling, busy self. I was surprised by its normalcy. And then I crossed over Exeter to the block where the finish line bombing occurred, and I tried to imagine it. There were some workmen fixing some windows that had been blown out. And several different signs in the windows of stores. But mostly, everything was open, including Marathon Sports. The library looked undaunted, a large and monolithic majesty, filled with so much knowledge, you could feel it. The footage and photos I’d seen hundreds of times had taken place live where I was standing. But today it was filled with school kids visiting the scene, and other Bostonians going about their business. I did hear several snippets of conversation that were clearly about the life changing event that took place on that cement, and at least 5 people with t-shirts on that said “Boston Strong.”
I crossed Boylston to Copley and was surprised not only by the humber of people, but by the number of posters, flowers, momentos and sneakers I saw. I hadn’t imagined the memorial area would be so large and it shocked me. I walked around, dodging tv cameras and people posing for photos. I picked a sweet little tree and put my poster there. Here’s what it said:
We’ve been through a lot together over the past 30 years– you and I. And I realized just how much I loved you a few weeks ago, when some people tried to turn you into a tragedy, a place to be feared. You stood up proudly, and said, “FUHGETIT. WE’LL PAAAHK AH CAAAAAHS ON YEH HEAD, YOU TRY ANYTHING LIKE THAT AGAIN.”
Love to all the people of this city. Loving and healing thoughts to all who were injured and affected.
I stood for a moment, looking around at the hundreds of people taking in the kindness and support that had turned a corner of Copley Square into a reminder of Boston’s latest history. I looked around and remembered when I used to lay on the grass that was once Copley Square, and eat my lunch or take in the rays, during a work day. I’d grown up here, been here hundreds of times, but this time was distinctly different. And with the shining sun, and the crowds around me, I took a deep breath, and walked over to the T (although full disclosure, not before going to The Tannery). I put my Charlie card in the slot, and climbed onto the train. Brookline was where I lived, but Boston would always be my home.
SCORE: Jason Collins. Standing ovation. Let’s do the wave (oh, sorry, that’s baseball). You’re my new favorite basketball player. It’s impressive that this NBA player just publicly announced that he’s gay, but even more impressive is this seven footer’s courage. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last few days, Jason is the first openly gay athlete playing on a major American sports team. This is the kind of move that creates change.
I’m not gay, but I support the gay community because as I’ve said many times before, gay people are just like straight people. We all share the same sort of big dreams and hopes, fears and insecurities. When you get right down to it, we’re all just people. JUST. PEOPLE. Trying to have a good life, find love, give back, do our best. I don’t want to kiss a girl, but I don’t care if you do. I’m all for it. And I’m all for equal rights, HUMAN RIGHTS. ‘
An announcement like this helps the lesbian gay, bisexual, and transgender community of teenagers in a big way. And this is a population that needs support. We all know how complicated adolescence is, what with the hormones, acne, emerging personalities, romantic relations, friends, school, social media and mandatory rebellion, but add a questioning of sexuality, or knowledge that you’re different sexually than all your friends, and you’ve got yourself the kind of isolating experience that causes deep pain and shame. Now these kids have one more person who’s let them know that it’s ok to be exactly who they are. Hey, I think I’m a little in love with Jason!
How has this announcement been received in the macho world that is professional basketball? All sort of NBA players have been extremely supportive to Jason. And even President Obama called him to say he had his back.
“I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.”
And looky here, our city’s marathon tragedy actually helped him make his decision to come out, as he talks about in this excerpt:
“The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We’ll be marching on June 8.”
So, Jason Collins–you have my 100th day of gratitude. I imagine you feel about a bajillion pounds lighter. You’re a good ball player, but you’re a great man.