Marathon bombings: A Bostonian’s response

United — Images like this were passed around on social media in support of blast victims and the city of Boston. Photo credit: Nicholas Malkoun

Yesterday was an important date in Boston. Long before the bombs exploded and plunged the city into chaos, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts commemorated the third Monday in April as Patriots’ Day.

The special holiday marks the battles of Lexington and Concord on the morning of April 19, 1775. We Boston natives share hazy memories of getting up before dawn and driving to Lexington Green to watch men reenact the legendary ride of Paul Revere and the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” Every year the battle continues a few hours later at North Bridge in Concord.

Patriots’ Day reminds Bay Staters of the rebellion we launched 200 years ago that birthed a new nation founded on the idea of freedom. The holiday is an annual rite of spring for residents to take the day off from school or work to spend time with their families — to explore the city’s rich history, to enjoy nature and see the annual herring runs, to catch an early Sox game at Fenway Park, or yes, celebrate with runners as they cross the finish line of the famous Boston Marathon in Copley Square.

For members of the Boston diaspora here in the South, it was maddening to watch the news knowing we were 700 miles from home — unable to help or even just be there with loved ones. Pictures and video from the scene showed that our city is in good hands, however.

Boston police, firefighters, EMTs, military personnel, doctors and nurses — even bystanders and marathon runners — all rushed to the fore to save lives regardless of personal risk. Red Cross officials stated yesterday that they had plenty of blood to help the victims and requested that people simply check on family members and consider donating in the future.

"Helpers" — Seconds after the first of two explosions, Boston police officers rush to save lives and restore order. Photo credit: John Tlumacki, Boston Globe

A quote attributed to beloved television host Fred Rogers made the social media rounds yesterday: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Boston is full of helpers right now, and it is strangely comforting to be reminded of that fact by a late childhood icon. The city will pick itself up and move on as it has from many disasters over the past 400 years, and before you know it, we will see victims throwing out the first pitch at Fenway alongside Jimmy Fund supporters.

Tragedy will not change the way Bostonians celebrate Patriots’ Day. Sure, it will take time to heal. Families have suffered loss, and others have experienced the psychological trauma of an attack at home.

But holy ordinances like summer night Sox games at Boston’s grand cathedral will proudly continue. The marathon will be run next Patriots’ Day as it has every year since 1897, and Boston residents will commemorate yesterday’s tragedy the way they have for centuries: by learning from the past and moving on — never forgetting the lives lost.

The bomber(s) would do well to remember one thing: this isn’t Boston’s first massacre, and the last did not end well at all for its perpetrators.


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