Thursday, April 18, 2013

Get Right Back to Where We Belong

"Ooo and it's alright and it's comin' 'long
We got to get right back to where we started from
Love is good, love can be strong
We got to get right back to where we started from"

--Maxine Nightingale

I woke up yesterday morning and literally the first thing I did was grab my phone and post the following tweet: 

The first sporting event to be held in Boston after the Patriot's Day bombing tragedy was being played at the TD Bank Garden later that night and I was hellbent on being there.  The terrorist(s) thought they might break our collective soul, but I for one was not going to let that happen.  No local team epitomizes our region's "knock us down, get back up" spirit moreso than the Boston Bruins. I wanted to play my part in it. It wasn't defiance, it was solidarity.  It was a compulsion to positively deny the bombers any sense of accomplishment or satisfaction.

You want to change us? Not going to happen.

I was close enough to the bombings on Monday that I was physically and mentally shaken by them.  This was my way of dusting myself up and getting back in the ring.

All throughout the day it kept occurring to me that this was not a national tragedy as much as it was a local one. Whereas the attacks on 9/11 were meant as an assault on the United States, its citizens and what it and we stood for, the events on Monday seemed to be a direct attack on what we, as Bostonians, treasure.  It was a day borne out the literal founding of our nation on our home turf and developed into a celebration of our city, its traditions, its institutions and it just so happened that we also invited the world to town to enjoy it with us.

This is the one day of the year that is unique to us.  When you live here, whether you are native or not, you just get it.

And the cowards who set off the bombs on Boylston Street tried to take it from us.

Not going to happen.

At the same time, I felt a strange juxtaposition. In 2001, I was in attendance at the first major international sporting event held in the US post 9/11, a World Cup qualifier between the US Men's National Soccer Team and their counterparts from Jamaica at the old Foxboro Stadium.  I remember vividly the sense of nervousness that hovered over all of us that day.  Yet we showed up en masse with a purpose, a bold sense of defiance in the face of terrorism as we rooted for the team representing our country and with it our ideals and way of life.  There were many highlights to be had that day, but one of the most notable was the way that the entire stadium, a crowd of 40,000 plus, stood together and belted out the loudest rendition of the Star Spangled Banner that I had ever heard.  It wasn't just loud though, it was the collective will of the crowd, our solidarity to the cause that made it so special.

And so I made my way into town after work as I've done hundreds and hundreds of times before. The long crawl on the Pike eastbound. The sun in my eyes as I exited the Tip O'Neill tunnel at Government Center. The T busses creating a bottleneck outside of Haymarket Station. The winding ascension to the upper levels of the Government Center Parking Garage.  The pregame meal and beverages with friends at the Fours.

It was all routine. But in a way, it wasn't at all.

There was the lane closure at the Pru tunnel due in part to the crime scene in Copley Square.  A heightened security presence on Causeway Street. The Garden opening its doors 30 minutes early to expedite the process of getting patrons into the building with security screenings. Guards with automatic weapons in front of the O'Neill federal building. Bag searches in the North Station concourses.

Like it or not, it was a new world we were living in.

Despite my fears, getting into the Garden and past security was very easy, seemingly faster than the last time the Garden had similar security measures in place post 9/11.  There was a definite buzz in the arena, but it was not a crazed excitement like the one I see before playoff games. It was a bit more subdued.

And so the seats filled up and we were treated to a fantastic video montage and tribute to those we lost, those who were injured and all those who helped respond in some fashion to the tragic events on Monday.  It was simple and poignant, in keeping with the high standards we've been accustomed to from the Bruins.

And then it was time for the national anthem.

It was known that longtime local legend Rene Rancourt would perform the Star Spangled Banner with the Boston Fire Department serving as the color guard next to him.  But no one could possibly ever imagine the awesomeness of what happened next :

It was completely and utterly organic. 17,565 people singing in unison.  United in the cause.

As amazing as it was to be part of it, I actually think the video does it more justice.

But at the same time, I did not feel the wave of nationalistic pride like I did back on October 7, 2001.  Rather, I think the anthem was a more of a conduit, a way of channeling our collective togetherness for our localized cause.  We were here for Boston, but the Star Spangled Banner was our way of showing it.

Sure, there were American flags all over the arena, but no more so that you would expect to see at a game against the Montreal Canadiens.

And then then it was time to drop the puck. Garden organist Ron Poster played his rendition of "For Boston", the Boston College fight song, for obvious reasons.  But his next selection was "The Spirit of Radio" by Rush, something he plays on a regular basis. And then it occurred to me:

We were back to normal.

Sure, there was the crowd doing a "We are Boston!" chant a number of times, a number of "Boston Strong signs dotting the seats, One Fund Boston ads on the corner boards, an incredible 8-Spoked Salute featuring 80 first responders from a number of different police, fire, EMS and military units, a celebration of all the marathon runners and spectators in the crowd and a stick salute by both teams at the end of the game, but as I said to my friend Garrett, if you walked in to the game 10 minutes late, you'd have a hard time knowing that Monday ever happened.

And I mean that in nothing but the most positive way.

After all, this game, this team and this crowd were all tasked with the job of getting the city and its people back on their feet and moving forward in the aftermath of the marathon tragedy. And to their credit, they wasted little time in doing so.  

Hell, the Bruins' power play was 0 for 2 and they blew a third period lead.  If that wasn't a sign that things weren't back to where they were before Monday, nothing was.

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