In many ways the Boston Marathon on Patriots’ Day—preceded by the reenactment of Paul Revere’s Ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord that launched the American Revolution, along side the Boston Red Sox playing major league baseball’s only morning game of the year at nearby Fenway Park—is the biggest small town parade in the country, stretching as it does for 26.2 miles with hundreds of thousands of spectators along the route. It’s no exaggeration to say that most of the region’s 4.5 million residents have some direct connection with the day’s public rituals. And just as tragedy in a small town has a way of weaving its way into the lives of virtually all the inhabitants, so too have Monday’s bombings touched Bostonians near and far, those who’ve lived in the city all their lives as well as many who lived here only a short time, or just passed through as visitors.
There is a brusqueness to the local culture. It’s not exactly that Bostonians are rude. It’s actually quite common to see young people give up seats on the subway to their elders, or bus riders offer a helping hand to a pregnant mother with her young children and groceries. What’s far less common is to see Bostonians graciously accepting thanks for their small kindnesses. They’re more likely to wave it off, treat it as no big deal (because that’s what you’re supposed to do), and be on their way to the next thing.
So when hundreds of citizens joined police, fire, rescue and medical professionals in rushing to the aid of those hurt by the explosions, as well as those suddenly with no place to go because their home or hotel was now part of a 15 block cordoned-off crime scene, it was no surprise. Neither was their general reaction when asked about it later: “I just did what anybody else would do in that situation.”
Some of that same attitude was present in the announcement Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after the blasts, by the Boston Athletic Association (sponsor of the Marathon) which ends, “Boston is strong. Boston is resilient. Boston is our home. And Boston has made us enormously proud. The Boston Marathon is a deeply held tradition – an integral part of the fabric and history of our community. We are committed to continuing that tradition with the running of the 118th Boston Marathon in 2014.”
After all, no small town cancels an annual parade just because something bad happened one time.
Here are links to just a few of the beautiful and powerful reflections published in recent days. I don’t know whether or to what extent any of these writers and performers still consider themselves Catholic, but it seems to me that there’s something distinctively Catholic (and Bostonian) in what each of them has to say.
“The Redemption of the Man in the Cowboy Hat” by Brandeis professor and former Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara.
“Messing with the Wrong City” by author Dennis Lehane.
“On Newbury Street, a Defiant Homecoming” by Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen.
“The Marathon“, by Grantland’s Charlie Pierce.
“Whoever Did This Did Not Know S*** About the People of Boston“, by comedian Stephen Colbert.