On April 15, 2013, I was 13 years old.
Marathon Monday was always a special day. A Red Sox game and the Boston Marathon? What could be better than that? Boston won on a Mike Napoli walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth that morning. It was shaping up to be a pretty perfect day.
I had a baseball game myself that evening, hoping to replicate Napoli’s late-game antics. I had felt a special sense of pride that I would get to suit up on Marathon Monday, just like the Red Sox had done that morning, even if it was just a regular season game for a local league.
As I laced up my cleats and smeared eye black across my face, I caught my mother watching television in the kitchen with a glazed over look. She was quiet, had her hand over her face and appeared anxious.
As I got closer to the television, I saw smoke on the screen. A lot of smoke. It was not long before I realized that I recognized the street the smoke was looming over. The location was familiar. It was Boylston Street in Boston, right near the Boston Marathon finish line.
Then, the confusion sets in. Was there a fire? Some type of malfunction with electrical equipment? Your mind goes through all of these possibilities that you know aren’t really plausible deep down. You just don’t want to believe what you think it is, and you think it’s a terrorist attack.
I was far too young to remember 9/11. I’d seen the documentaries and heard the stories about where the adults in my life were when they found out about the planes crashing into the towers of the World Trade Center, but I didn’t know what it actually felt like to witness tragedy unfold, especially so close to home.
That all changed on that sunny afternoon in April.
To know an act of terrorism was committed less than an hour away from your doorstep is an eerie feeling. To see the streets you’ve walked on blown up with limbs and blood on the sidewalks doesn’t feel real.
In the following days, one of the scariest things I remember was the unknown. Where are those that did this? Surely they left the city, so were they coming my way? Why did they do this? How did they do this? Is something else going to happen? The questions were endless and the answers were non-existent.
Everyone in Massachusetts remembers where they were on April 15, 2013. They remember what they were doing, how they found out about the bombing and the uneasy feeling that accompanied the news. All those memories are there, even eight years later.
Unity Through Sports
I think sports saved a lot of people in 2013.
The Red Sox obviously went on to win the World Series in outstanding fashion, and the first Bruins game following the bombing will forever send chills down my spine. The entire city came together to sing the National Anthem, and that act alone brought back some sense of normalcy. It made you feel like everything was going to be okay. Boston was going to make it through this.
The Red Sox were destined to win it all that year. The city needed it. Between all the walk-off wins, David Ortiz’s speech and the placement of the Commissioner’s Trophy at the finish line at the end of the year, the people of Boston had something to fall back on.
People came together like never before. You asked your neighbor how they were doing. Friends checked in on each other. Family stuck together. If the entire community were to sit around a dinner table, Boston sports was the centerpiece of the spread that got conversation going.
Nearly a decade has gone by since that day, and part of me feels like no time has passed at all. The years just keep flying by and 2013 becomes more and more of a distant memory, but one that I, along with so many others, am never going to forget.
Even amid all the confusion, the shock and the stress, I learned a lot about what community truly is. Boston, and the state of Massachusetts as a whole, is a special place. No matter what happens, people don’t get discouraged. They don’t let others, especially those with cruel intentions, dictate how they are going to view life. People stick together, they are there for one another and they don’t lose hope, even during the darkest hours of the century.
Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, Krystle Marie Campbell and Sean Collier will never be forgotten. Officer Dennis Simmonds, who died a year later from injuries sustained during the Watertown shootout, will always be remembered.
Boston Strong forever.
Photo: Michael Dwyer/AP Photo