I was thousands of miles from home when the bombs went off at the Boston marathon, but even from the glow of the television screen it was a sickening kick to the gut to see those familiar streets turned into a war zone in an instant. The very place where I had once cheered my own daughter on to the finish line became a blood-soaked scene from a war. Steps from Copley Square, perfect strangers bore victims to safety; police shielded downed runners; and doctors mended the injured around the clock. I will never forget the phone calls in the days that followed, hearing friends tell me about grandchildren, husbands and wives, struggling for life itself or fighting to save their limbs. Today, my thoughts and prayers remain with those we lost and those still struggling to recover, and today we give thanks for the grace and grit of so many who defied the odds to walk and even run again on new legs.
The horrors of Patriots’ Day 2013 reminded all of us of the worst and the best that mankind has to offer. It taught everyone exactly what the City of Boston was made of, a backbone of steel that runs through our city. But it also reminded us of a humanity that really is universal. And across the globe, people everywhere closed ranks and paid tribute. In London, a week later, marathon runners wore black ribbons on their bibs. In Toronto black signs printed with “04.15.13” lined the streets. Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa had crossed the finish line on Boylston Street two hours before chaos reigned. I met him months later in Addis Abbas where he vowed to give his medal back in solidarity with the victims. Lelisa was true to his word and returned to Boston that summer, medal in hand. And with 6,000 other triumphant runners, he ran 10K through Boston Commons and along Commonwealth Avenue. In Ethiopia, Lelisa told me that “sport should never be used as a battleground.”
Later this month, as runners once again take their mark in the Boston dawn, we will all be reminded that courage and empathy triumphed. That sports are not a battlefield, but an act of community, and that the bravery of police officers, firefighters, medics, runners, and bystanders turned heroes, made the phrase “Boston Strong” meaningful from Massachusetts to Europe to the Horn of Africa.