Today is Patriots Day in Massachusetts. It is a day that has for decades been marked by two events: the running of the Boston Marathon and the Red Sox home game played at the odd hour of 11 a.m.
It is a day that always holds great memories for me. I grew up a 3 minute walk from the marathon course (right after Heartbreak Hill) and it was an annual ritual to walk up to Commonwealth Avenue with the list of runners from the newspaper so we could identify who it was that was running by. We encouraged the runners: “It’s all downhill from here” (which was not exactly true) and enjoyed the carnival atmosphere of the day.
Since that time, the Marathon has grown exponentially. But it is still, of course, an event with great meaning in Boston and across the area.
But now the Marathon carries with it an additional memory. That is the memory of the horrible day in 2013 when a terrorist bombing at the finish line killed 3 people, including a young child, and wounded hundreds more. I remember being shocked at hearing the news of that bombing and watching incredulously from my home 500 miles away as the city was thrown into panic until the terrorists were captured.
The slogan that grew out of that horrendous event: “Boston Strong” was the trademark of a city which refused to give in to fear. That slogan carried the Red Sox to an improbable World Series championship that year and lifted the hearts of New Englanders everywhere.
And, the next year, the Marathon ran as a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
This year, however, the Boston Marathon, and the 11 a.m. Red Sox game, will not take place, at least not on Patriots Day and for several months after it.
The enemy this time is an unseen enemy but one which has threatened us all.
As we continue to “shelter in place” and observe social distancing, I think it is important to remind ourselves that this is not a sign of weakness or irrational fear. It is not similar to cowering in fear of a terrorist attack. It is not the antithesis to “Boston Strong”.
It is the strong, wise and courageous thing to do at this time. We are not hunkering down in fear. We are using our wisdom and our hope for the future to give our nation and our world every chance we can to survive this pandemic.
As we stood watching the marathon runners emerge from the Newton hills and cross over into the city of Boston at last, it was clear in their eyes that they knew they were nearing the end and could muster up the physical strength to run the last 3 and a half miles to the finish line. As a young child, it was inspiring to watch them. I remember that look on their faces especially today.
We don’t know at what part of the course we find ourselves in this race against Coronavirus. But the important thing for all of us, including elected officials, to remember is that we are, to use an overused phrase: “in a marathon and not a sprint”. And, we must show the determination to reach the finish line even though we don’t know exactly how far we are for that line.
With great appreciation, respect and awe for all of those on the front lines whether in health care or in keeping our towns and cities running properly, we must show the courage and strength to continue to stand up to this virus in the wisest possible way. We must protect ourselves, our families and those around us by making the wise and courageous decision to continue to shelter in place, wear our masks, wash our hands and believe that we will be strong enough to defeat this enemy.
May we all reach the finish line in health.