Marathon Monday isn’t like what you saw on the news. It’s one of those days when everything feels lighter. The whole city comes alive with things to celebrate: the runners, the Red Sox, the city, the way the sun feels on shoulders that spent all winter beneath a coat. But the best part of it is the names. Some people have countries or organizations on their shirts, but most have their names. The thing to do on Marathon Monday is to stand at mile 21 and call them out. Cheer people on. Sometimes they look back at you and smile, or look a little more determined, or thank you. It’s humbling. The smiles and the thank yous are all very humbling, because they’re the superhumans running 26.2 miles, and you’re the one standing there calling out a name. But what you’re doing is still important. That’s what Marathon Monday is about. If you’re not running the race, you stand by and support the ones who are. There’s always something good to do.
We saw that when the bombs went off. Runners who’d finished the marathon continued on to Mass General to donate blood. Spectators ran toward the devastation, toward the danger, to help those caught in the blast. People on the streets looked each other in the eyes and asked how they could help, and locals offered up their homes to strangers in need of shelter. People stood together. So I take back what I said earlier; Marathon Monday is exactly like what you saw on the news–not in its outcome, but in its spirit. We saw the best in this city and its people on Monday.
And it wasn’t just Bostonians. I read last night about a marathon runner who was crying on the side of the road, a half-mile away from the finish line, after learning that her family was safe. A man stopped to check on her; his wife wrapped his blanket around the young woman’s shoulders as he gave her his medal and told her that she’d finished the race in his eyes. She took to Facebook to find him, and she did, and I’m about to make a very loud fuss because he turns out to be Brent Cunningham from Sitka. Sitka! I met up with Brent a couple of times early in my year there, when I thought I might volunteer with Wyldlife. He was so kind and welcoming, and he always said hello when we crossed paths after that. He was usually running. I was usually panting and dragging my bike up a hill. I’m not at all surprised that he stopped to help this woman–whose brother, as it turns out, was my year at BC. The world is SO SMALL and people are good EVERYWHERE. New Yorkers sang “Sweet Caroline” at a Yankees game, ok? That’s love.
So the bombing isn’t tragic just because of where it happened, and it’s not a mistake just because “you don’t mess with Boston.” It’s tragic because it happened to people, anywhere, at all, and it’s a mistake because the good people already won. I think they’d win in every city.
That being said, you don’t mess with Boston. It’s personal now. Boston is the only place that I’ve ever felt a part of before I even visited. I belong there. I can’t explain it; I just walk the streets and I know that I fit. I love the old brownstones and the reflection of the sky on the Hancock Tower, the various dysfunctions of the T and the way people talk about baseball. Every season feels like a season, and everyone complains about all of them, except for football season and that one perfect week in spring. I like getting lost on side streets that make no sense and winding up in pockets I never would’ve found otherwise. I love how young it is and how loud people are and how 44 people in my class at BC had my last name. People love Boston gruffly and quietly and without effusiveness, but their pride is fierce. Boston doesn’t feel like a tourist destination; it feels like people’s home, and I’ll call it home always. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that this happened to my Boston. I’m devastated. I’m angry. I’m just really angry.
But there’s a line in BC’s fight song–for here all are one–that’s never been more accurate, and I can’t wait for next year’s marathon.