Saturday, June 8, 2013

Of the Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial...

Photo 1: Trinity Church and Hancock Tower in background.
Photo 2: The most moving part of the memorial. Each victim named,
with a photo and symbols of important associations in their lives.

Photo 3: Existing 100th anniversary memorial inlay showing marathon route, the BAA
unicorn symbol, and elevation above sea level (Heartbreak Hill would be that last series of upward
bumps before the long decline to the finish).

The visit reflected in these photos occurred three weeks ago, as your faithful correspondent and the three people he loves most in this world were on the way to meet friends in Chinatown for lunch. Over seven weeks on, there has been an awful lot written about the bombing itself, the surreal rampage and chase of the suspects through Cambridge and Watertown, and the inevitable assessment of how this happened and what can be done to prevent terror attacks like this in the future.

One thing that struck me, however, and I clearly wasn't the only one to have this reaction, is that the attackers made their target the quintessential Boston event: the Marathon. This is an event that is historic (this year was the 117th running, the longest-running marathon in the world), occurs on Patriots' Day (a state (and not a national) holiday and a source of huge pride for the region), and coincides, by tradition, with the only morning start game in baseball's major leagues (11 am at Fenway). It's a day when everyone knows not to try to go north to south (or vice-versa) anywhere west of Downtown Crossing because the marathon is effectively cutting the region in half. It's a day that I have typically worked in the morning at a very quiet office and then slipped out in the afternoon to meet up with family and friends and watch one or more runners I know and perhaps even helped along on training runs through the winter come through well after the leaders and the press trucks have gone by. Over the years, I've watched the race principally in Newton, but also at Cleveland Circle and, yes, near the finish line on Boylston Street the year Ann-Marie ran. I've even run the race myself, back in 1999. It's not much of a stretch to say that virtually everyone in and around Boston has had some connection to the Marathon at some point in their lives.

So when the bombing occurred, it seemed people around here took it particularly personally. I don't know if that helps explain what's been going on with the informal marathon memorial that sprung up originally at the finish line and has since been moved to Copley Square, at the Dartmouth-Boylston corner. But I think that must be part of it. Overall, it's an incredibly moving expression of the collective urge of this town to stand taller after this tragedy, to make at least one unintended legacy the idea that Boston, as a place, simply won't accept an attack like this as the last word about what happened on April 15, 2013. Clearly, there will be a need at some point to appropriately preserve the totality of what has been placed at the memorial site, and, just as clearly, there will also be a need to preserve in a permanent memorial that will have to be somewhere nearby, if not right where the temporary memorial is today, the memory of those whose lives were taken. More on this in the days ahead.

[Blog Post No. 2013-6]

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