Kevin Morin and I always joke with each other when writing. Often times we’ll write something, send it to the other and say “Is this anything?” Now, the teachers I’ve had in the past would have told me that something you create has worth and meaning and value because you put it into the world. Sure, but I’ve put a lot of things into the world that are trash.
Today, however, Kevin sent me a piece titled “What is Patriots’ Day?” and asked the same question. “Is this anything?” You see, I’ve been out of Boston for so long, that Patriots’ Day is just Monday to me now. At the most, it’s a full day of baseball, which I am always here for.
But as I dove into Kevin’s piece, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Seven years ago the city of Boston went through a harrowing time of uncertainty, fear, and violence, that then blossomed into a defining moment for all of us.
On April 15, 2013, I was on tour with Rock of Ages, far from the city I grew up in. After being away at school for four years, and then on tour for two, Boston was very much a part of my identity, but was starting feel less and less like home. Sure, I was repping the Sox, Pats, B’s and Cs across the country, but the nomadic lifestyle of touring was beginning to change my outlook. Until I stepped off the bus, walked into my hotel room and turned on the news.
You feel helpless, that’s the first feeling that hits you. You’re too far removed for shock or denial. It’s just a gut-wrenching feeling of your inability to do anything. I call my parents, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, just trying to check on anyone I could in that moment. Once you hear the voice on the other end you breathe a little easier, until the next phone number you call goes to voicemail.
I was lucky. I did not know anyone who was killed on injured on Boylston Street. But there are countless others who were affected by those bombings.
The next day, Boston and all of Massachusetts went into lockdown, as the governor issued a stay-at-home order for the surrounding Boston suburbs, in an effort to find those responsible.
Stay-At-Home order… That sounds familiar.
As all of Boston waited in their homes, all of us glued to our televisions, we all wondered how we would return to normal. How can I go see a game at Fenway or ride the Orange Line without constantly looking over my shoulder. How do we trust the world around us after this?
And then the Bruins played their first game back in Boston after the bombings. Prior to the puck drop, the Bruins and the Sabres, along with a packed TD Garden held a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Marathon bomings. After the moment had passed, the Bruins played a video featuring images of the heroic actions of those at the Marathon after the blasts.
The video ends with two sentences, “We are Boston. We are Strong.” And after that sinks in, half the image disappears to reveal our city’s rallying cry.
I rewatched this video before writing this piece, knowing how it ends, and still found myself wiping away tears. And then Rene Rancourt steps out onto the ice the same way he has for what seemed like 10,000 years before. But this time, the National Anthem is sung a bit differently in Boston.
Accompanied not by the normal organ, but by the Boston Fire Department, Rancourt begins singing, and then stops. If there’s one thing I know about Rene Rancourt, it’s that he never stops singing. Seriously. The man is a machine. But this time, he hands the microphone to the 20,000 Bostonians who are singing along with him.
This was the moment I knew we would be okay. The moment I knew we were all going to get through this, where we all began to trust each other again. Sure there was David Ortiz reminding all of us whose F**king city it was, but this moment was one of collective healing and one that was characteristically loud.
As I write this, New York is currently “On Pause”, but we all know what that means. We’re on lockdown in an effort to flatten the curve, to keep each other safe, and to make sure that our brave healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers can do their jobs during this pandemic.
The other day, I bought a “New York Strong” T-Shirt.
I’ve been through this rodeo before. But I haven’t had that “National Anthem” moment.
Until a few days ago.
My street, much like most of New York and the states hit hardest by Covid-19, takes part in the nightly ritual of clapping for those on the frontline who are battling the hardest. While friends of mine are fighting for their lives and fighting to save the lives of others, all of us are holed up in our houses. Showing our undying appreciation and support is quite literally the least we can do.
Last Friday, my wife and I stepped out onto our balcony, and I heard one of our neighbors BLASTING Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
I never truly adopted New York, New York as a song that I like. Is it classic? Yes. Does it make me think of the bright lights of the sity that never sleeps? Sure does. Is my only issue with the song that it’s played after the Yankees win? Yes, it is. Personally, I’m more of a “New York Groove” by KISS kind of guy.
However, it was at that moment, when “Start spreading the news..” hit my ear, that I felt trust return. I felt hope return, and I felt the strength of the city I now call home rise up and say “We are New York, and we don’t take s**t from no one.”
Look, there are countless examples of these moments throughout history. One that comes immediately to mind is Piazza’s Home Run after 9/11. There’s Croatia’s Silver Medal after their Civil War. Both are moments that bring healing to tragedy.
We’re a ways away from having our own moment of healing from the current state of affairs. But as someone who has felt it three times in his lifetime, let me tell you this.
It’s coming. You just need to keep your ears open.
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