If Monday wasn’t a crucial day in Boston’s storied history, it certainly seemed like it. In the first Boston Marathon since pressure cooker bombs killed three spectators and wounded more than 260 people, some of them grievously, the city once again showed its grit, this time joyfully, and seemed in some way to reclaim its spirit from the shadow of a terrible day.
It started with the turnout. More than 32,000 people ran in this year’s marathon, undeterred by last year’s brutality, determined to run, and for any number of reasons: for the joy of it, for the challenge of it, for the politics of it, for the pride of it, or for the sheer Bostonian defiance of it. And more than 1 million people came to watch – more than double the usual number. This was a day to show up.
Capping the day, an American – Meb Keflezighi – won the event for the first time in more than 30 years. He ran with the names of last year’s victims written in black marker on the corners of his race bib.
Dennis Murray, 62, a health care administrator from Atlanta, finished last year’s marathon just before the explosions. This year, he ran again. “When they try to take our freedom and our democracy, we come back stronger,” he said.
He wasn’t alone in that show of determination. Victims of last year’s bombings also came back, returning to cross the finish line in ceremonial fashion. “I was really nervous,” said Heather Abbott, wearing a “Boston Strong” sticker on the prosthesis that has replaced her left leg. “I didn’t want to fall. I’m just glad we made it.”
So was most of the rest of the country, which was, no doubt, holding its collective breath as the marathon kicked off. It was hard to hold off all worries, even though Boston seemed to have prepared very well. There was a massive security presence for an event that ranked high in the world’s consciousness.
But it all went off safely, perhaps because the Tsarnaev brothers, accused of responsibility for the bombings, are anomalies and the crime wasn’t likely to be repeated, anyway – despite a bogus threat made a few days ago by someone who may have psychiatric issues. But also, there were 100 new surveillance cameras, more than 90 bomb-sniffing dogs and officers posted on roofs.
It all paid off in one of the most memorable marathons ever, marked by a moment of silence at 2:49 p.m., when the first bomb exploded last year, leading to an intensive manhunt that ended in the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and the arrest of his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
The moment of silence – and it was only a moment – was followed by the cheers of thousands who understood that Boston had its city back. It was a fine day.