I wrote the below after walking through Boston seven years ago, two days after the Boston Marathon bombings. I walked through Boston a couple of weeks ago late one evening, escaping the constant news of the coronavirus. Finding myself all alone on the streets of the City was eerie, but as I walked I felt the same sense of hope and pride in the people of Boston, and in those all across the Commonwealth, as I had seven years ago.
“My Boston” 4/17/13
I have held back from speaking about it, or writing about it. But I haven’t been able to hold back from thinking about it. You see, I am not geographically from Boston, but I am of Boston. I live so close, and work in the heart of the great Shining City on a Hill.
As a boy, one of my favorite things was to drive with my father, from Roxbury and South Boston, and my mother, from Roslindale, with my brothers and sisters through Boston, from the fish piers to Mission Hill. We’d see the guy with the peg leg down on the wharf, get slush in the North End, hear about the Brahmins of Beacon Hill, learn of where the Jewish people lived before they moved to the suburbs, and see the street life on Blue Hill Avenue. I’d hear how my grandmother, Anna Rooney, would ride through East Boston on the step of the police wagon, as her father, a Boston Police Inspector, sang “Little Annie Rooney” at the top of his lungs.
Those were the stories of my youth, and were the stories of my Boston.
Many times, with my wife and my own children, I walk and drive those same paths, telling those stories of my Boston. I mix in the new, for there are modern buildings with the old, fresh faces in the once hoary neighborhoods. Still, “This is a great City,” I tell them. “God, I love this City.”
Last year I was in another great city, Chicago. It’s supposed to be friendlier than Boston. Yes, the people were friendly, but I couldn’t say they were friendlier. Anyway, I went with my son to a famous Italian beef restaurant, and ordered my sandwich. The guy at the counter quickly asked, “You from Boston?” I answered with pride, “Yeh, we’re from Boston.” Later that day, while at Navy Pier, a woman asked if I would take her family’s picture. “Sure,” was all I said. “Oh, you’re from Boston.” Again, pride. “Yes. We’re from Boston.” Being in a different city, one of the world’s great cities, and being called out for being from Boston. It was great. My Boston. Known not just to me. Known to all.
Well, my Boston, known to all, was beamed all across the world this week. Explosions. Bloody sidewalks. A little boy dead, two other beautiful innocents as well. So many hurt in a terrible way. Not my Boston.
Heroic reactions. Quick responses. Prayers for those passed, and for those hurt. Best medical care in the world, saving lives. People opening homes, opening hearts. Strength and courage. Faith and hope. Pride swells. My Boston.
A walk through my Boston today with my sons showed people out and about, under deep blue skies, in warm spring air, beneath Back Bay cherry blossoms, just a block away from 48 hours ago.
Well, we still pray. We still heal. We will remember. And, still, “This is a great City. God, I love this City.”