My friends and I watched the marathon from mile 14, conveniently across from a DJ who was playing Thriller, Eye of the Tiger, and other gems that we danced along to with too much enthusiasm, and some of the tired runners gamely danced along to a little bit as they went by. Emily is the ultimate marathon buddy, texting me “We’re here and we have a seat for you!” while I was barely awake. She also chased down a runner who dropped her cell phone, after which I tweeted that she was the hero of the day. As it would happen, she was the first of many.
We yelled the runners’ names, which they tend to scrawl on their chests or arms, and they flashed quick, appreciative smiles, or pumped their fists, or ignored us, those ungrateful athletes, what, are you in the middle of runnin’ a marathon or something? One named Celeste replied with what seemed like an especially heartfelt “Thank you.” It was a beautiful day after a long, long winter.
Patriots Day is a special day in Boston, while also being a completely made-up holiday, because that’s how we do. It did make me laugh a little to hear Obama say, “Today is a holiday in Massachusetts.” We are so busted for our fake holiday, you guys. You caught us. No one was at work. But we swear, every other day, we have jobs, really.
My friend Jess was trying to figure out the best place to watch her fiancee run by. She settled on mile 24 and then taking the T to the finish line. I was keeping an eye out for him. “What’s he wearing?” I texted her. “Blue tank top and blue shorts,” she replied. I remember thinking, “Don’t you hope you never answer the question about what he’s wearing with those words again?” but I’m not sure I sent it. Then later, when we spotted him: “Just saw him. Looks like he’s owning it. Sending him your way!”
My friend Joe was volunteering at mile 13, giving out water and Gatorade and taking videos of his liquid philanthropy. He saw me post on Facebook that I was at mile 14 and when the runners had mostly gone by, he wrote that he was walking down to us. His sister was running, and he was wondering the best way to get to the finish line. “We’re leaving soon anyway, I’ll drop you at the T,” I told him. I drove him to the train, and told him where to get off: Copley.
An hour later, everything changed. What’s happening? And then: Blue tank top and blue shorts. Get off at Copley. Where are Jess and Joe?
I texted Jess and didn’t hear back. I checked Joe’s Facebook page. It was filled with, “Where are you? Please tell us you’re okay.” Then I remembered him needing to use the charger in my car because his phone was almost dead, and surely was by then.
My loved ones from out of state started calling and texting to make sure that I wasn’t at the marathon, but the thing is that we all were. That’s kind of how the day goes. But I was nowhere near the finish line.
I heard from Jess. She was fine, but looking for her fiancee. I pictured him running by us. Then, later: “Found him.” Joe was okay, too. Deep breath.
It’s surreal to end the day worrying about people who didn’t cross your mind that morning. They were the only ones that I was genuinely concerned about, because of the unique circumstances of that day. It could’ve been anyone else. I think of my best friends. At work in Copley. Editing a dissertation. With her toddler. Producing a TV show. What if I was looking for one of them? I really don’t know. I was lucky.
I left work today to drive to class, almost my last one before graduation. I live close to Boston, but I work in the sticks and it takes at least an hour to get into the city. Today there wasn’t any traffic. And once you hit 93, the city opens up in front of you like a postcard. Passing the giant paint can gas tank in Dorchester, there was a double-sided sign flashing “COWARDS” and “PRAY FOR BOSTON.” Signs said over and over again, “Copley Square/Boylston Street closed/Seek alternate routes.”
Between the first responders, the Google doc with thousands of people offering to open their homes, the signs at Yankee Stadium, the outpouring of kindness for the city that everyone loves to hate was overwhelming. More overwhelming than anything that happened in Boston yesterday.
And you know, I said more “I love you”s to the people in my life over the past two days than I can remember. Some to friends I’d maybe never said it to before. So, who wins? I know we’re a competitive town, but I think we do.
Here are some of the pictures that I’ve taken over the past few years on Patriots Day. For those of you who have never joined us in Boston for that day, I hope they capture the true spirit.