The tragic events at the Boston Marathon this year made if difficult to be so far from home. As I watched it all unfold on the television, I longed to be close to family and friends in the city I love.
In truth, I’m not from Boston. I from a small town 30 miles southwest of the city that nobody would know anyway. So whenever anyone asks me where I’m from, I say, “Boston” whole heartedly. I’m proud to associate myself with a city as beautiful as —The City on a Hill, The Hub, The Cradle of Liberty—Boston.
After graduating from college, I moved to the North End of Boston, which is primarily an Italian community — incredibly safe and friendly. The streets are filled with fantastic restaurants, bakeries and espresso bars. The smell is intoxicating. Having grown up a small town— without so much as a traffic light—the vibrancy of city life was enthralling to me. The smells, the sounds, the mass of human beings—the enormous rats!—I loved every minute of it.
Bostonians walk everywhere, but if you need to go across town—to Cambridge or the South end, you take the subway. If you do happen to have a car, good luck finding a parking spot. And driving that car—driving in Boston is like entering a maze. The city is abundant in one way streets and yet street signs are often no where to be seen (most have been knocked over the prior winter by the snowplows). Once you know your way around, driving isn’t too bad—unless they happen to be doing street repairs, then you’re screwed.
The people of Boston are in a class by themselves. They’re not highfalutin folks for the most part. Overall the city’s inhabitants are salt of the earth regular folks. Heavy accents are often a clear giveaway to the particular part of the city where they grew up.
Bostonians are crazy passionate about their sports teams: the Red Sox (the Sox), the Patriots (the Pats), Celtics (the Celts) and Bruins (the B’s)—good luck getting tickets to any home game. Go into a coffee shop or store any day of the week, and you’re likely to overhear a fellow citizen giving the play by play of yesterday’s game. Not surprisingly, they despise the competition just as passionately. And you’re likely to hear that, too.
Sure, Bostonians have their gruff side. The words intense, opinionated and loud come to mind. In traffic they are impatient, aggressive and sometimes rude, with a certain hand gesture making a regular appearance. One thing is certain, you never have to wonder what Bostonians are thinking.
But underneath that gruff impatience and intensity are people who are just as passionate about their loyalty when it comes to their family and friends. I moved away from Massachusetts more than 20 years ago but when I see any of my old friends, it’s like I never left. Without missing a beat, they launch into their memory banks to quickly rehash times we spent together—or to remind me of some embarrassing moment that I’d prefer to forget.
When I watched the scenes of the bombing on CNN, I was crestfallen, then deeply heartbroken. At the same time, I was deeply moved by the way the everyday citizens ran toward the bomb sites and not away from them. That grit, that fortitude with a touch of chutzpah is the character of the people of Boston. When the going gets tough, they are the first to lend a helping hand. As tragic as the bombing was to those people affected, my eyes overflowed with tears to see the citizens—the average Joes and Janes—kicking their way through barricades and flying to the side of those injured.
That’s the Boston I know and love.
But, if I’m honest, I could be talking about most any city in the United States. Sure, I have a pretty transparent bias about my adopted hometown—but I know that Boston’s wonderful and resilient people are not entirely unique or special. Every city in this great land of ours is filled with people of a similar stripe. We may be a diverse bunch, culturally, politically, economically—but we have a common love for this beautiful land. That’s what makes this country so great. Our spirit and spunk unite us: When we’re down and out, that’s when we show our stuff—that’s when we stand as a people—in the land of the free, and the home of the brave.