A year later, Boston and its fans still standing strong
Marathon bombings shook the city hard, but many found Fenway Park to be soothing
One year ago today, the United States and one of its great cities were gutted by the horrific events at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and the aftermath of that day's terrorist acts that took lives and limbs, ripped apart families and created new, difficult realities for the survivors and their loved ones.
Boston got back on its feet because that's what Boston does. The recovery from the senseless tragedy will last lifetimes, but it began that day, April 15, 2013, and it continues, Boston Strong, on its one-year anniversary.
Baseball has been able to play a small part in the recovery from the bombings. The hometown Red Sox were in the early stages of a World Series championship season when the two bombs went off near the Marathon finish line and the pursuit of the murderers went into the suburbs and into the following days, and the team's season-long and still-enduring commitment to honoring the victims and providing the occasional fun distraction for the survivors and their families and friends served as an inspiration as the team rolled through October to finally win a ring at home.
"The best way I could sum it up is, yeah, I think it was a moment in time that enabled us to galvanize in a certain way," manager John Farrell said last October. "It was an opportunity for our players to understand their importance in this city, what the Red Sox mean to this region."
That's why it was no surprise to hear our nation's leader reference the meaningful bond between a city and its baseball team when the Red Sox recently visited the White House to be recognized by President Barack Obama.
"Obviously, all the wins were sweet for Red Sox fans, but I think for the nation as a whole, there was something about this particular squad that was special and will go down in history -- not just because they went from worst to first, but because they symbolized the grit and the resilience of one of America's iconic cities during one of its most difficult moments," Obama said.
"Nearly one year ago, hundreds of thousands gathered on a beautiful spring day to run and cheer the historic Boston Marathon. But a senseless act of terror turned celebration into chaos, and joy into anguish. Four young people lost their lives. Hundreds were injured. The city was rocked. But ... Boston stood resolute and unbowed and unbroken."
So it's fitting that on Sunday evening at Fenway Park, the night before Patriots' Day and the 2014 Marathon, there will be a ceremony on the field to remember the event and the significant loss that so many still must painfully address every day, such as the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu and Martin Richard near the finish line, the loss of Sean Collier, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology policeman who died three days later during the pursuit of the terrorists, and the 264 people who were injured.
But there will also be so much to celebrate: The boundless courage of the victims, the selflessness of the responders, the tireless work of law-enforcement officials, and the city itself, stronger than ever a year later.
We saw it before Game 1 of last year's American League Division Series, when victims, rescue workers, police and members of the medical profession reunited on the Fenway field. People who never wanted to be introduced to each other in the manner in which they were forced to do so were standing with each other, on their feet and not afraid of the challenges that lie ahead.
The group included Robert Wheeler, who had finished the marathon that day and ran, shirtless, to the aid of others. The group also included Heather Abbott, who lost her left leg in the bombings but was in attendance at Fenway less than a month later, throwing out a game's ceremonial first pitch and getting words of encouragement from Sox players David Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
All throughout the season, the tragedy was remembered at Fenway Park with tears and hugs and that signature strength. Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs, has appeared at the ballpark, as have Carlos Arredondo, the man in the cowboy hat who saved Bauman's life, injured survivor Peter DiMartino, medical director Chris Troyanos and the family of Collier.
These people and the hundreds of others who were affected by a very dark day one year ago will never be forgotten by the Red Sox or Boston or the United States of America. That message will be driven home once again at Fenway on Sunday and in the years to come. It was driven home by Vice President Joe Biden in Boston on Tuesday, when he acknowledged the one-year anniversary by pointing out how that "the whole world witnessed ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things."
"You are Boston strong," Biden said. "But America is strong. ... What makes me so proud to be an American is that we have never, ever yielded to fear. Never.
"America will never, ever, ever stand down. We are Boston. We are America. We respond, we endure, we overcome and we own the finish line."