A Patriots Day like no other
Posted by athomeatfenway on April 16, 2013
The T ride out of Boston was somber yesterday.
Patriot’s Day is and always should be one of the best days of the year. The only morning game in the major leagues commences at the brisk hour of 11 a.m. About 3 hours later the baseball crowd floods into Kenmore Square and other points on the route of the Boston Marathon. At that hour, the elite runners have long since finished the race. The thousands now running, walking and limping past are cops, college students, doctors, pilots, lathe operators and everyone else under the sun. There people dressed as Super Man, cape and all, or human hamburgers. Or a giant beer cup. In 2008, I saw 4 BU students each holding the corner of a sofa as they jogged it toward the finish line. As if there was a furniture division.
More than anything else at that stage of the event, there are thousands with the names of a lost mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, co-worker or friend spelled out on their body. These runners have lost someone to cancer. Some of them wear the running shirts of Dana Farber and Boston Childrens Hospital, Mass General or another place of healing. Fans line the street and shout. GO DANA FARBER ! GO CHILDRENS !
In that way, Patriots Day is always bittersweet. It is also always a celebration of life and an overcoming of death.
There is no better day to go to Fenway. My seat in loge 154 was unimprovable. The sun was mostly bright. The crowd was bubbling. 66 years ago to the day, Jackie Robinson played first base for the Brooklyns, breaking the color barrier. All the Red Sox and Rays wore Jackie’s number 42 on this day. All MLB players do that on Jackie Robinson Day.
Ryan Dempster gave us a solid start. Andrew Bailey coughed up the lead in the 9th. Dustin Pedroia, Boston’s Pocket Hercules, drew a walk in the bottom of the 9th. Then the newest Beast in Boston, hairy, scowling, hulking Mike Napoli hit a shot off the Monster. Pedey dashed home with a pop up slide. Game over. Sox win. Bedlam on the field. Sox storm the diamond. Tampa heads hang low and stride quietly away. 35,000 exuberant fans scream I LOVE YOU MIKE, and GO SOX, or YOU DA MAN !
Then, Mike Napoli did the on-field TV interview like a man holding his nose and changing a diaper. He couldn’t wait for it to end.
After 30 minutes of lazing about the Park, I walked two blocks to my spot on Beacon Street. There is a bridge there over the Mass Pike on the Marathon Route. My friend, Steve McLaughlin, sports photographer extraordinaire, always positions himself on the bridge to snap shots of runners bearing the Dana Farber running top. By the time I reached Steve at 2:20, he had already snapped 1,400 photographs and filled a 16 MB memory stick.
This was to be a special year. My cousin Kimberly was running her first marathon today. I very much looked forward to shouting YOU GO, K-I-M-B-E-R-L-Y ! as she ran past. I had been receiving text updates for her bib number. I knew she was about 8 miles or 1 hour away.
While Steve worked I offered encouragement to the runners. We were at the 25 mile mark. These athletes were nearing the finish line. Their faces showed elation, pain and exhaustion. One runner was decked out in formal attire. Another one, tall and fit, wore a bright orange body suit with a little red speedo over it. A gymnastically inclined runner stopped every 100 feet or so to snap off 5 of the sharpest cartwheels ever. Then came the man in a bright gold spandex suit and a red cape with the letter K emblazoned on it. He was is the Kancer Killer, perhaps.
Friends screamed out the names of runners as they passed. Smiles and shouts exchanged. Brief hugs. Pure joy.
Just after 2:50, Steve said, “Look at all the cops leaving their posts and heading for Kenmore.”
“Maybe somebody is hurt.”, I offered.
“Maybe. But I’ve had this gig for a few years and I have never seen the cops do that. Something is up. Something has happened.”
Steve was right. We soon heard there had been 2 explosions at the finish line. For the next hour, runners continued to run past us. But many soon came back heading in the opposite direction, walking away from the finish. Cops, cruisers and emergency vehicles sped past us down Beacon. Caution and doubt took over.
Although I stayed until 4 pm, Kimberly did not run past me. She had heard there was trouble and walked off the course after mile 24, prevented from completing her first marathon by uncontrollable events.
As I cut through a lot on the way to the Fenway T stop, I heard the details about what had taken place. A carload of fans had the doors of their wagon open with the radio news pouring out. Clusters of strangers stood in the lot, listening silently.
It had become a very bad day.
Those of us on the train back to the suburbs, mostly strangers, looked each other in the face and talked about what we had seen and how the day’s events would change things.
“It will never be the same. That’s the sad part.”, said a 50-something man who had enjoyed Boston’s remarkable day for decades.
“It will never be the same.”
We Americans, especially the ones in Northeastern cities, don’t practice hospitality easily. We don’t look strangers in the face. We don’t talk to each other unless we are friends.
That train ride was different. Everyone was thinking the same thing. This is America. This is Boston. We don’t stand for this kind of stuff. We will do what we have to do.
Of that, there can be no doubt.