If you are a fan of baseball, then you just watched the Red Sox win the World Series a few nights ago. It was a pretty big deal in our house because we come from that part of the country. Even though I moved to the south eight years ago, Boston will always hold a special place in my heart. I grew up going to Fenway Park with my parents. I remember what it felt like to sit on those wooden folding chairs and look over at the “Green Monster” while eating a Fenway Frank. I can still recall freezing my butt off while wearing a winter coat, mittens and a hat just to watch a baseball game late in the season. Going to Fenway was a treat for our family and it was one of the few times that I really saw my Dad’s face light up with enjoyment.
When the bombing happened at the Boston Marathon earlier this year, we watched with true pain in our hearts for a city that we love so much. We felt completely helpless as we sat here 1200 miles away. We couldn’t go to the memorial sites to pay our respects, we couldn’t walk amongst the people that talk like us and hear their comforting dialect, we couldn’t hold someone’s hand in the hospital and tell them how sorry we were that their lives had changed in an instant. All we wanted to do was to be surrounded by the people and places that we knew so well, as if that would somehow help us come to grips with the fact that our city had been violated.
We spent days upon days glued to the television, knowing in our minds that the photos wouldn’t change – it had definitely happened – but hoping that by absorbing every story into our hearts that maybe we could draw ourselves closer to home. As time passed, the heroes began to emerge as they often do and along came our Red Sox. A motley crew this year, just like the self-proclaimed “idiots” of 2004 who had broken the curse of the Bambino and won the World Series when I was still living up there. This year’s team banded together in the shadow of tragedy, grew their beards as a sign of solidarity and adopted the mantra Boston Strong as their call-to-arms.
Some may say that sports figures are given too much of the spotlight in today’s society. They make too much money. They have too much notoriety. They are too famous for simply playing a game. When it comes to a city like Boston, our sports teams and players are very important to us. They unite multiple states, races, genders and age groups. They are a part of our collective history. They tell the story of where we have come from and what we have built over the years. We take a distinct pride in the fact that our teams have suffered years and years of losses only to now be enjoying the fruits of their labors.
You can go into any watering hole, barber shop, corner grocery or firehouse in Boston and you are likely to find some sort of memorabilia that is related to the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Celtics or the Bruins hanging on the wall. If you walk down the street you will encounter someone wearing a shirt, baseball hat, shorts or even a tattoo representing their favorite local team. A brief scan of the cars parked along the road will certainly display any number of creative emblems expressing the pride people have for their chosen lot and someone willing to talk about them. The people of Boston and the surrounding states don’t just watch sports, they ARE sports.
So, when the Marathon Bombing took place it was a deep, personal strike on the people of Boston. It hurt the collective souls of everyone because we go to sporting events to share a time of closeness with our friends and family. We sit in the stands to cheer on a team that we love or we stand on a sidewalk to root for a family member who has worked months and months to accomplish a physical goal that we can only imagine achieving ourselves. We gather in joy and harmony while we laugh together, eat and drink with dear friends, clap, cheer, raise our hands in excitement, cover our faces in despair, hug our neighbors in a moment of pure unabashed glee, clasp our hands together to whisper silent prayers of negotiation and we capture these events in photos so we can always remember how our hearts felt light, if only for a few short moments.
The bombings were so painful to us, not because they hurt most of us in the physical sense but because they broke through that veil of innocence that in Boston we felt safe. We go through the security check points, open our purses and the guards look inside then let us pass. We may get a cursory pat down or a wand flashed across our bodies then we forget all about it by the time we take our seat in the stands. We have adjusted to the routines at airports of shoes, belts, computers, liquids in small bottles, everything into the tubs and onto the conveyor belt… walk through the scanner and then get dressed again. We never thought that it could happen in our beautiful city.
As we all know, it did happen. People were hurt, people suffered, people lost limbs and people died. There are people whose lives will never be the same and for some, Boston will never be that tranquil, historic, gorgeous place that they used to call home. They will never feel safe walking down the street or going to watch their favorite sporting event ever again. I will never be able to understand how those people are feeling and I won’t even pretend that I can do or say anything to make them feel better. It is not my place. They will have to walk their own individual paths to healing, both physically and emotionally. My heart DOES go out to them for what they have been through and for what lies ahead.
What I haven’t forgotten throughout all of this is that Boston IS Strong. It was a strong city before the bombing ever happened. If you look back at the history of the city, it was built on the foundation of very strong people. Individuals who believed in this country and fought for their beliefs. Everywhere you go in Boston there are statues erected to honor these amazing people. I spent my childhood reading about these people in history books and walking past these statues without really understanding that this strength was all around me. Every brick that was placed on those streets, every building raised in the center of that city with cornerstones dated in the 1800s, every garden planted was all created by people who faced adversity in their own right. The term “Boston Strong” may have come out following the Marathon Bombing but in hindsight it really wasn’t a new definition of this great old city.
The Red Sox know what it means to the city of Boston to win a World Series Championship. It wasn’t just a game to them. They NEEDED to win this title for the morale of the city following the bombing at the Marathon. The watched their city suffering as people were maimed, lying helpless and bleeding at a sporting event that brings people from all over the world to their home for a day that is usually filled with joy, laughter and celebration.
After that horrible day, they visited patients in the hospitals, talked with their families, played with their kids and tried to spread encouragement wherever they could to help ease the suffering. They knew that the only power they had was to use their gift, their ability to play baseball and do it as a united TEAM, to bring home the championship title for this city. That was what they needed to do to help heal the wounds and further prove that TOGETHER anything is possible. They were going to use their actions to prove Boston Strong.
Today, I was fortunate enough to watch my beloved Red Sox celebrate their World Series Championship Victory Parade on the Duck Boats (not the Swan Boats above) as they traveled through the streets of Boston and then into the Charles River. It was wonderful to see all the people lining the streets, holding signs, wearing their shirts, baseball hats and other paraphernalia representing the home team. People had big smiles on their faces. They were laughing with their friends, holding their children up on their shoulders, waving signs, clapping and taking pictures. I know that they haven’t forgotten what happened on the day of the Marathon Bombing but there was a lightness in their hearts that hasn’t been there for a long time.
Thank you to the Boston Red Sox. You never forgot that you play this game for a city of people who pay hard-earned money to come see you. You never forgot that the gift of your ability to play baseball can be used to lift the morale of a city that was suffering. You never forgot that if you stuck together and worked as a TEAM, that anything was possible. You stopped at the Marathon Finish Line during your Victory Parade and paid your respects to those who had suffered on that day which gave many people the closure that they needed. This was one more step to showing the world just what it means when we say BOSTON STRONG.