“Tomorrow, the sun will rise over the city of Boston.” -Barack Obama
Nearly one year ago, the very fabric of our being forever changed. The city of Boston rose on Patriots Day, 2013 to the same sense it always did – a celebration of a holiday commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord that began the American Revolution. It rose, as it always did, for a Boston Red Sox game starting at 11 AM. And it rose, as it always did, for the running of the Boston Marathon.
There was no way to realize the gravity of what would happen that day in the city. By now, everyone knows the narrative of the unspeakable acts of terror, the two bombs exploding by the finish line in Copley Square. In the spirit of the holiday, though, Boston began to act almost immediately following the bombings. Whether it was acting to serve those wounded, protect those in danger, or hunt down those responsible, Bostonians followed through on one of their core axioms to lead by example and never, ever give up until the job was done.
The week that followed gave us all glimpses into all sides of humanity. Under the watchful eye of the Massachusetts State Police, one of the two suspected bombers was apprehended with the assumption and anticipation of being brought to justice while the other met an early demise. This all happened in our backyard, in the town of Watertown, just miles outside the Boston city limits.
That this all took place in Watertown created a uniqueness to the situation for those of us associated with the Bentley community. The Bentley campus stands less than a 20 minute drive from the area where the manhunt took place. The JAR is even closer, standing within the Watertown borders. It brought it closer to home more than ever, evidenced by two tweets from the Falcons’ Brett Gensler.
On that day, Bentley’s campus completely shut down, as did pretty much all of eastern Massachusetts. Locked down on campus, the students were resigned to getting whatever was offered from either the dorms or the residential cafe, essentially a staple hamburger and a few fries. The school provided updates where it had to, filtered the information it needed to, and at the end, praised the students for their action (or inaction, which is essentially what they were forced into doing) and patience throughout the process.
For me, it’s hard to realize how much one year can affect someone’s core. Born and raised in Boston, the Marathon and Patriots Day are as much a part of my fabric as anything else. I’ve been to that 11 AM Red Sox game more times than I can count, and the walk from Fenway to Copley Square, on a gorgeous day, is one of the most anticipated and beautiful things I’d ever experienced. Seeing the people in the distance, knowing I was about to join the city’s largest cocktail party and rock concert, watching people I knew and other ordinary citizens run for a cause, for the hell of it, or for personal gain – it’s something you can’t understand until you experience it. And even then, you don’t fully get it unless you grew up here and understand what that holiday means.
It’s hard to fathom that, up until about 10 AM on that very Monday, I’d been trying to get into the city for the game with my girlfriend (now fiance). I had asked her to take the day off from work since my full-time employer sits on the Marathon route, closed on Patriots Day, and hers does not. I’d been pushing for it so we could watch the Marathon together at the finish line. That’s something I still have trouble comprehending, to know that we could’ve been in the vicinity of the bombs, or worse, instead of her at work and me driving home from a golf course.
It’s harder for me to fathom that the suspect in custody was a student at UMass-Dartmouth, my alma mater. It’s harder to fathom that he allegedly committed the act, then went back to school and partied in places I called home for four years as if nothing happened. To turn on the news that week and see Black Hawk helicopters landing in the middle of my campus was completely unbelievable.
And in the end, I, too, was a resident affected by the shelter in place and essential lockdown. I sat in my Waltham apartment, with helicopters overhead, sirens through the streets, unable to move. I sat and watched the news because there was nothing else to do, slightly intoxicated when I thought the manhunt would come down my street, around the corner from Bentley, less than five miles from where I slept.
What do these details now matter? They matter because we remember. We remember this year that it’s been one year since the worst of mankind came out. But we remember that through it all, we persevered. Even if we weren’t first responders, even if we weren’t police officers, and even if we weren’t at the finish line or in Watertown, we persevered. We left an indelible mark on the rest of the world that we would do whatever it took to bring justice to those that needed it. We left an indelible mark that we could steel our reserve, grit our teeth, and wait it out. We showed that, when called upon, we could do it with unthinkable fear in our backyard, in our lives. We were all shaken that week, and now, one year later, we can look back proud of the happy ending, even if our lives are never the same.
April 15th is a day that will forever live in infamy to those of us who were in the Boston area. Our lives were forever shaken, our resolve tested, and our emotions ripped apart. The images will never go away. But in our Bentley uniqueness or in our own memories will persevere the thought of a victory that can never be won in an arena. It’s always going to be there, but we’re always tougher for it. And, no matter what, we will always, forever, be #BostonStrong.