Patriots’ Day has always been a very memorable day for me. Observed as a civic holiday in Massachusetts, it commemorates the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, the start of the American Revolutionary War. As a child, there would be a routine to the day that would be repeated year after year.
My father and I would set our alarms for 4:30 a.m. and, by 5:00 a.m., we were on the road, driving to Lexington to watch the re-enactment of the battle there. I recall Paul Revere riding his horse to the Battle Green, calling out, “The British are coming!”, followed by the Red Coats marching into town. Shortly thereafter, the shot heard ’round the world indeed marked the start of the Revolution.
After the re-enactment, we would walk to a nearby church for a pancake breakfast. By 9:00 a.m., we were back home, where we rested and prepared for the next event of the day, heading into Downtown Boston to watch the thousands of runners participating in the Boston Marathon.
My mother was an avid runner and she ran the Boston Marathon twice in 1988 and in 1990. As we watched the race, she would point out certain marathon celebrities, among them, Johnny Kelley, a man who ran the Boston Marathon for more than fifty consecutive years (well into his 80s) and Dick and Rick Hoyt, the father/son duo, where the father would push his handicapped son in a wheelchair for the entire 26.2 miles.
The Boston Marathon now brings nostalgia for me, especially after my mother’s death in 2010. The tragic events that took place yesterday afternoon only added to my sadness, especially since I, as a native Bostonian, share a deep connection with the marathon.
After returning home from a lunch on the Hudson on a beautiful spring afternoon, I received a text from my youngest brother, Daniel, asking if I had heard about the explosion at the finish line of the marathon and to tell me that my father and younger brother, Tim, were but a short distance from the finish line at the time of the explosion. They were safe, unharmed, and were rushing to safety. At that point, the depth of the tragedy began to sink in. I was able to stream one of Boston’s local news stations and remained glued to the television throughout the day. When I retired around midnight, there were still very few facts: three were dead and about one hundred were injured. Who is responsible for this action and the motives behind it were not yet known.
Waking up this morning, I learned the sad news that an eight-year-old boy from the neighborhood where I grew up was one of the three who died yesterday. His father was running the marathon and he was at the finish line with his mother and siblings. One of the pictures of young Martin Richard struck me. It was taken after his First Communion. The background was all too familiar to me: the steps of St. Ann’s Church in Neponset, my home parish, where I received my First Communion and Confirmation, where I served as an altar boy, a lector, and, in high school, as Director of Music and Organist. If it wasn’t enough for this tragedy to happen in Boston, it strikes even closer to home knowing that one of the victims was an innocent, happy young boy “from the neighborhood”, a characteristic of so many of us who grew up there. While it may be described as “tough”, Dorchester is anything but that right now. The neighborhood is deeply grieving a young man whose future was horribly ended yesterday. In times of tragedy, neighbors open their homes to each other, because we’re all family.
As I write, we still don’t know who did this or why he/she/they did it. It is never easy to comprehend why people commit such graves acts of evil. It is even harder to grasp when we have neither the who nor the why.
However, Bostonians, indeed all Americans, will not succumb to this act of terrorism. We will grow stronger because of it. In a telegram to Boston’s archbishop, Seán Cardinal O’Malley, Pope Francis “prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good.” Bostonians will do just that.
The City of Boston is a sad place today. Amidst the sadness, however, there is both charity and love. Where charity and love abide, God is ever there.
Ubi caritas et amor, Maurice Duruflé (1902–1986)
Where charity and love abide, God is ever there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.