Boston, MA. — The late blooming warmth of a New England spring morning in Kenmore Square is mocked by the desolate pall that hangs over Boylston Street just one mile east on this second day after the marathon bombings in Boston. With police and FBI officials still pouring over the thousands of photographs and hours of video that were shot along the finish line stretch on Monday, the who, the why and the wherefore of the cruelty remain painfully elusive even as the agonizing consequences continue to radiate to all corners of the city and the nation.
(LATE BREAKING NEWS AT 1:40 p.m. EASTERN TIME: ACCORDING TO WBZ-TV VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS, AN ARREST IN THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING IS IMMINENT!)
Last evening in the close-knit Boston community of Dorchester hundreds of neighbors gathered on a grassy ball field to hold a candle-light vigil for eight year-old Richard Martin, youngest victim in Monday’s tragedy, even as Richard’s mom and sister remain hospitalized with severe injuries. And though it remained blocked as an ongoing crime scene, Boylston Street itself has been turned into a makeshift shrine as these locations of loss so often are.
Far across the country in San Diego members of the San Diego Track Club came together not just for their weekly Tuesday night workout in Balboa Stadium, but to reinforce their sense of community as they showed solidarity with their Boston brethren.
“We had 17 runners from the club run Boston,” SDTC coach Paul Greer told me. “15 made it to the finish line before the race was stopped. We had more people that usual show up last night. People who normally wouldn’t show up made an extra effort to be there. We formed a big circle that covered the entire field, and had a moment of silence.
“We did the same thing on September 11th. That was on a Tuesday, and that day we circled around what we called the Freedom Tree in Balboa Park at 6th and Laurel Streets, the original starting location of (San Diego’s) Rock `n` Roll Marathon.“
I informed Paul that the same thing happened in Chicago last evening as some 200 members of CARA, the Chicago Area Runners Association, came together for what was billed as “Unity with Boston” three-mile run along the city’s north lakefront. 110 Chicago runners had qualified for Boston, and even before most had returned home their compatriots were meeting to share the communal sense of loss. And just his morning my friend Charlie Lyons in New York texted me that friends are organizing a six-mile run on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the New York City Marathon finish line in Central Park to share their bond with Boston.
“Wear something Boston-related if you can,” Charlie texted. “Urban Athletics is bringing 30 “NY Hearts B” hats. Others encouraged to follow suit.”
As most who read this blog well know, running has always been more than a sport, a fitness exercise, much less a charity fund-raising mechanism. For many people the act of running is their primary way of coping with life’s challenges and celebrating its triumphs. In darkness or in light it’s there, a vessel vast enough to hold all one’s fears, all one’s anxieties. Hopes and dreams are born afoot. Travails and tragedies are assuaged at pace. It can take all you’ve got, and still have room for more when you’ve been wrung out and left sagging by the side of the road.
Today along the last mile of the Boston Marathon route I witnessed recovery runs being undertaken to help slough off the lactic acid accrued on race day. But rather than a celebratory nod or casual smile of satisfaction that a post-marathon week might generally bring, I saw solemn tilts of the head, lowered casts of the eye as if paying tribute to those who lives were lost and shattered.
Yellow-vested members of the Boston Police Department now stand on corners in a silent show of strength, while members of the Massachusetts National Guard group around the entrances to the city’s subway stops. Business is slowly beginning to return to normal at the outer edges of Boston, though even the normal sound of a siren in its dopplered rise and fall causes you to sit you up just a little straighter in your chair. And in the heart of the Back Bay the shock and sorrow, the determination to find those responsible and bring them to justice, remains a palpable force.
Running teaches us there is no short cut to success, there is no single magic workout from which fast times will emerge. Only the slow, often painful, accretion of effort over time builds to the achievement of race day goals. 367 days from now – April 21st, Patriot’s Day 2014 — 25,000+ runners will once again toe the line in Hopkinton with every intention of running across the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street. As we have all too painfully come to see, there may be one, or a few, who will see this celebratory massing of men and women from around the world as an opportunity ripe for political barbarism.
Boston public safety officials and the BAA will fashion a tighter security net to protect runners and the crowds as best they can. But only the slow accretion of political effort in the name of justice for all, the foundation upon which this nation was built, will lead us to the land it first promised and that we still all hold as our birthright at events like the Boston Marathon.