by Ray Daniel
I can’t tell you why I chose to watch the Red Sox duck-boat rally from in front of the Forum Restaurant. I think it was the tree, a commemorative sapling that marks the spot where the second Marathon bomb had exploded–a positive memorial of a terrible day. I took the tree's picture and posted it to my Facebook page. Turns out that was a good move.
I had been in Boston during the bombing. My 21-year old son and I had been walking from Fenway Park where we had attended the Patriots Day baseball game (Sox won 3–2). We were meeting his girlfriend at the corner of Newbury street and Fairfield, but realized that we were cut off by the Boston Marathon, which zig-zagged its way up Hereford then down Boylston to the finish line.
“Hey,” I said, “Let’s go around the finish line. I’ve never been to the finish line.”
“No,” he said, “It’s too crowded.”
“Let’s just check it out.”
We did check it out, walking up Hereford to find that the street was too crowded. We changed our plan, deciding to take the T under the Marathon by getting on at Hynes station and off at Arlington. That placed us underground in Arlington Station when the bombs exploded. We never heard a thing.
The rest of the day was an exercise in logistics: figuring out why everyone was crying into their cell phones, logging our safety on Facebook, finding my son’s girlfriend, and skirting the disaster by walking down Back street, past Fenway and out to our car in Brookline.
I had taken two things from that day. A mild aversion to the flashing lights on police cars, and a tendency to choke up whenever somebody mentioned the bombing. The aversion to flashing lights had gone away. I was hoping the duck-boat rally would help with the rest.
The morning passed; the crowd grew. We took pictures of everything. A phalanx of police rode up the parade route on bikes, we cheered and took pictures. Early morning runners jogged down the parade route, we cheered and took pictures. Nothing happened at all, we cheered and took pictures. I turned to take a picture of the Forum restaurant, whose bar had filled with sidewalk revelers, and saw my son and his girlfriend. They had seen my post on Facebook and come to find me. We would get to celebrate together.
The first sign of the rally was a Red Sox front office guy who wore a suit and two World Series rings. We shouted for him to pose and took pictures.
The first duck boat arrived, sporting a beard across its bow and carrying officer Steve Horgan who had famously thrust his arms into the air as Torii Hunter tumbled over the bullpen wall trying to catch David Ortiz’s game-saving grand slam. We took his picture.
More duck-boats rolled past carrying players and their families. They cheered and waved. We took their pictures; they took our pictures, all of us trying to capture the joy of a city that had been shocked by what Peter Gammons called “an attack on a backyard family Easter egg hunt.”
The rolling rally came to a stop. David Ortiz (Big Papi) walk past us towards the front of parade. The huge speaker on the duck boat sprang to life as Ronan Tynan of the Irish Tenors led us in a rendition of God Bless America. I looked across the crowd as I sang, the familiar catch in my throat arriving then subsiding. Down the street, Red Sox players were placing the World Series Trophy on the finish line, draping it with the Red Sox jersey for player named "Boston", number 617 (the Boston area code.)
The ceremony over, Big Papi came striding back down the parade route, the duck boats started moving again. We cheered our team, took more pictures, and celebrated being Bostonians. The last duck boat rolled by, empty except for an unnamed Red Sox employee. We cheered “That Guy” and took his picture.
Afterwards my son and his girlfriend took off for Faneuil Hall to meet friends. I got some coffee, considered climbing back on the T and heading out of town, but tossed the idea aside. The sun was shining, the duck-boats were rolling, and Boston was healing. Who would want to leave that?
I'd killed my cellphone battery with picture-taking, so I pocketed it and walked down Boylston towards the Boston Common, weaving through a city populace decked out in its colors. I stopped at the entrance to the Public Garden where George Washington sat astride his horse, wearing a Red Sox jersey and a big red beard. A lighthearted crowd gathered around the Father of our Nation and took his picture.