The standard advice to writers is to write about what you know.
I know the Boston Marathon.
Maybe I should say I knew it. Although, my memories from 46 years of the Marathon remain the same, the emotional impact of these memories is forever changed.
The marathon has been something amazing and special to me since the first time I saw it in 1967. I was a freshman at Boston College, up from my home state of Maryland. I had never even heard of it. But I loved watching it and I loved its history, going all the way back to 1897.
For so many New Englanders, the Boston Marathon was more than sport. It was a rite of spring; a cherished family day; a chance to stand with people you did not know and cheer on other people you did not know; to offer paper cups of water and sliced oranges as the runners passed by. It was a feel-good day.
Rain or shine, too cold or too hot, the runners came and so did the spectators. Every year I watched with tears as front runners sprinted by and those at the back of the pack struggled by. The crowds always cheered for both – awe in their voices for those in the lead and sincere words of encouragement for those in the back.
I always felt like the Boston Marathon was an example of people at their best. Their real best – not just their peak of physical performance – their best because it was, in many ways, about collaboration as much as competition; about striving as much as succeeding; about cheering on with appreciation as much as being cheered for; about celebrating the last as well as the first.
It was about the spectators as much as the runners. Running Boston just wouldn’t be the same without the crowds and traditions. It was truly the most interactive of sporting events and many families built traditions around this special iconic Boston event.
It was about people coming together from all over the world to participate, and in a funny way, it was about people from the suburbs coming together with Bostonians to celebrate our “Bostonness.”
Bostonians, for the most part, love Boston – its history, its crazy traffic patterns, its accent, its sports teams and its marathon. To us, “the Marathon.” When we heard someone talk about “running Boston” it held a special meaning for us.
So how has it changed? What does it mean now?
It means even more than it did before. Until 2:51 on Monday afternoon, it represented a happy celebration of spring and sport, a chance for people to be at their best. Now it will always represent people at their worst, as well.
But here is what we can’t forget. Whether there was one bomber or a dozen or even a hundred, there were more heroes than bombers. People rushed in to help. Others showed up at area hospitals to donate blood. Others opened their homes to those who couldn’t get back into their hotels. People across the country are collecting money to help victims in whatever way possible.
None of this diminishes the horror of what happened. None of it makes up for the senseless loss of lives and limbs. None of it can restore the innocence so many children lost on this day.
No, the harm -and it is immense – can not be extinguished.
But the spirit of the Boston Marathon can not be extinguished either.
If the bombers thought that fear would prevail, they were wrong.
If they thought that hatred will overtake us, they were wrong.
If they thought that we will be convinced that the evil in the world is stronger than the good, they were wrong.
We can show them that they are wrong, and we must.
So from now on, be a little more loving to everyone, a little less fearful about everything, and embrace all that is good in the world. Hold tight to the good. Never let it go.
Finally, come to Boston for next year’s Marathon. Run it. Walk it. Watch it. Just come.
We need you here.