Boston is a city almost without borders. People within 50 miles of the concrete monster we know as city hall can stake a rightful claim to being from Boston or “the Boston area.” And people from all over the world who root for our teams can feel a very special connection to the city.
Yet Boston is very small when compared to some of the other major cities in the world. New York is overwhelming as it surrounds you. You can still be in the middle of Atlanta after what feels like a two-hour drive (that’s not counting the traffic). Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas… none of them are the same as Boston.
We’re a big town, really, stitched together in a quilt of fiercely tight communities. And as much as so many people can claim to be from Boston, many of those people who actually live within the city limits identify themselves by their neighborhood. They are from Hyde Park, or Brighton, or Beacon Hill first, then from “Boston” when asked “where’s that?”
Yet, as tight as our little communities are, there are events that can galvanize us. Very often, it’s been rallying under the collective umbrella of our sports teams. This time, though, it’s a tragedy that is beyond accurate description. And while there is nothing unique about tragedy uniting humanity, there is something uniquely Boston about our response to this one.
Boston doesn’t have a “fight or flight” response to anything. It just has “fight.” The initial shock, pain, and sadness of yesterday, has given way to a united anger. A middle finger rises from the smoke of yesterday’s attack, asking in general to whomever might be waiting for our response: “is that all you got?” To wit: Paul Flannery’s letter from Boston.
The bombs went off a little before 3 p.m. That’s when the people you know were finishing. The students and the moms and dads and the people who decided to do something special one time in their life. The ones who raised money for their causes and trained through the snowy morning jogs just to prove something to themselves or the people they love. Maybe you’ve even done it yourself, or you make a vow to be out there next year. This is our day to be human again after staying inside through the brutally long winter.
They, or whoever, tried to take that from us. Fuck that. We’ll be out there again next year and the year after that and the year after that. We’ll train longer and harder and more of us will run. The rest of us will be out on the route, cheering like mad for our friends and family and people we’ve never met.
Before that, though, we will do what many cities do in times of tragedy. We will once again congregate under the umbrella sports always provides to shield us from this storm. For us, we turn to our Celtics, who are about to embark on a run in the playoffs. They will wear on their chests the name of the city that is in pain and enraged. They wear on their chest the name of a city that is injured. But they also wear on their chest a city that refuses to do anything besides what it always does: live and work without regard for what others may think of us, or try to do to us.
“I think that’s what our city wants,” said Rivers. “I think that you hear the police commissioner today talking about that. We want to return things as soon as possible back to normal because that tells whoever did this that you don’t stop the spirit of Boston. We are going to be back, we’re going to work the same, we’re going to play the same, we’re going to do things the same, and there’s nothing you can do to stop us from doing this.
There’s nothing you can do to stop us from doing this.
If there’s a line that captures the spirit of Boston, in good times and in bad, it’s that.
We are going to do what we do, and fuck you if you try to stop us. Fuck your sucker punch bombs, and fuck your attempts at scaring us out of our daily routines.
We ache for those hurt and killed. We will care for them, their friends, and their families. And we will fight for them.
But we will also move forward with living our lives, with the help of our Celtics, and Bruins, and Red Sox. They will provide us comfort and normalcy. We will prove to those tried, unsuccessfully, to change our lives forever, that we will not be deterred. Not now. Not ever.
We are Boston. And there’s nothing you can do to stop us from doing this.