by Joe Shea
April 21, 2013
THE BIG, BIG WHY
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The third Monday in April is Patriots' Day, a state holiday in Massachusetts that marks the day in 1775 when, in the words of Emerson, "By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April's breeze unfurled/Here once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard round the world."
Massachusetts, my native state, is the only state in the Union with two holidays commemorating the kicking of British - the other is Evacuation Day, on March 17.
While it conveniently falls on St. Patrick's Day, in 1776 that was the day that the British fleet blockaded Boston and set sail for Nova Scotia after they discovered General Washington had maneuvered some artillery batteries onto the high ground overlooking the harbor.
And even though Timothy McVeigh tried to sully the day that the farmers at Lexington and Concord fired the first shots of the Revolutionary War by blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, Patriots' Day is inviolate.
In this part of the world, it marks the point in the Spring where you feel safe enough to take the snow tires off your car. It's the one day of the year that the Red Sox play at 11 a.m. Until they moved up the starting times for the elite runners, the idea was that you could watch a baseball game and get into Kenmore Square to see the finish of the Boston Marathon.
A half-million people come to the city to watch the marathon. Nearly 27,000 runners from around the world come to Boston to run in the oldest, most challenging marathon in existence. This is an event where the 10,000th place runner gets as many cheers as the pack of top Kenyan and Ethiopian runners who now dominate the Boston Marathon.
I've stood on that stretch of Boylston Street where the finish line stays painted in place long after the race is run. I have marveled at the courage of the people who pushed themselves for nothing more than the bragging rights that they ran the Boston Marathon. I know those blocks they run past.
And to see the blood-soaked images from Monday, images from a city I have loved from up close and afar, has broken my heart and pissed me off beyond belief.
Patriots' Day is a day of joy and celebration in Boston, and the rest of New England. This was our holiday. This was our marathon.
What happened on Monday was like a punch to our collective gut, but it has also steeled our resolve to not allow a random act of madness to scare us or to make us turn on each other.
The point of terrorism is to take away people's sense of safety and security and make them scared and fearful. But people in Boston on Monday showed how futile that tactic can be in the face of a tough, strong-willed city that backs down to no one.
The first responders who charged into the chaos; the runners who crossed the finish line and kept on running to the hospitals to give blood; the spontaneous outpouring of help for stranded runners, the dogged determination of the investigators who were on the case as soon as the smoke cleared - they all inspire us.
These are the signs that whomever committed this bombing picked the wrong city to attack.
There's going be another Boston Marathon next year. The cheers will be as loud as they've ever been, if not more so.
That's how we, the people of Boston and the rest of New England will honor the memory of the dead, and how we will respect the pain of those wounded in body and spirit.
We are not going to let any one take away Patriots' Day, the day we honor the courage of those who stood unafraid against British tyranny.
We're not going to let anyone take away the Boston Marathon, the most egalitarian sporting event in the world, where just finishing is considered an honor.
Most of all, we will continue to live our lives, unafraid, unbowed.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A .from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.