BOSTON -- The urge to cry comes three, four, five times per day. Maybe more. There is always another story, another television interview, another tale of pain and redemption that grabs the heart and squeezes. There is always another dose of Boston Strong.
The Norden brothers are a fine example. Here they come now, a couple of young guys from Stoneham, who each lost a leg in the bombings a year ago. They walk on their artificial limbs -- pretty damn well, better than you or I would. They're finishing up a walk from Hopkinton to the finish line right here. That's the entire Boston Marathon course. In the rain.
"The year's been slow and fast at the same time," one brother says into the camera. "We were hurt and everything, it was going by slow. We were asked yesterday, though, 'Oh, can you believe it has been a year?' No, it has been super fast. We had so much support from everybody that it was like, it was the worst day of our life and sometimes it was the best day of our life."
The other brother kisses his girlfriend. There is cheering from friends in the background. The finish line is where the bombings occurred a year ago. The finish line is where the Norden brothers are right now.
Who would have expected that?
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"Thank you to everyone who rushed to our aid in those terrible moments after the bombs went off," Jeff Bauman of Chelmsford says in an open letter on the front page of the Boston Herald. "Without your courage, I would not be alive today…"
He is the 28-year-old free spirit who was waiting for his girlfriend, Erin Hurley, to finish the race a year ago. He now is a double amputee, famous from the survival photo that showed him being rushed from the scene in a wheelchair with the help of three strangers, one wearing a cowboy hat. Bauman, too, now is walking again on artificial limbs. He has written a book called "Stronger," detailing his surgeries and recovery.
"Thank you to all the doctors and nurses who cared for me… Thank you to the law enforcement officers who worked so hard to identify and capture the bombers… Thank you to everyone who wrote messages and sent gifts and prayed for me. You will never understand how much it meant. You inspired me every day."
No, thank you.
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A two-part story in the Boston Globe details the hard year of the Richard family in Dorchester. The death of their eight-year-old son in the second bomb blast -- Martin, the kid with the Boston Bruins jersey and the broad smile whose picture soon was everywhere -- was unfathomable. Everything proceeded from that unfathomable starting point.
Reporter David Abel writes:
Seven months after what he came to call "the event," Bill and his wife, Denise, were now grappling with how to glean some meaning out of their void, some way to honor their son, the only child among the three who died on Marathon Day.
Bill was still recovering from a second operation to repair his blown eardrums, while Denise was learning to adapt to being blind in her right eye. Neither had much time for their own care, so pressing were the constant medical appointments for Jane, their 7-year-old daughter, who lost her left leg and was still learning to walk with a prosthesis. They also remained concerned about their older son, Henry, who at age 11 escaped the shrapnel but had to live with what he witnessed.
It was the week before Thanksgiving, another looming milestone as they learned how to live on as a family of four, to use one less plate for dinner.
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The parents of Lingzi Lu, another victim, have arrived from China. She was a 23-year-old graduate student at Boston University. Her father says through an interpreter that the family had saved the money to send her here. He says that she loved Boston, loved the architecture, said that "every corner you turn, you see another picture." No interpreter is needed to detail her parents' sadness.
Yujue Wang is part of a team of BU students who will run the Marathon in honor of Lingzi. She says they plan on "taking back the finish line for Lingzi."
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The stories keep coming.
Adrianne Haslet-Davis, the former ballroom dancer who now has a prosthetic foot, walks off the set of Meet The Press because an agreement not to mention the names of the alleged bombers -- not to give them one bit of recognition -- has been breached. Yes! Patrick Downes, whose wife and he both lost a leg in the bombings, calls the recovery experience and help from everywhere, "the most humbling experience of our lives." He says, "I am so proud to be a Bostonian, to be connected to all of you." Yes!
Joe Biden, the Vice President, has a message: "You're living proof that America can never, never, never be defeated. Terrorists try to instill fear…and it infuriates them that we refuse to bend, to change, to yield to fear. That's what makes us so proud of this city -- that you have never yielded."
There is the story of Mark Furcale, who lost a leg. There is the story of Sydney Corcoran, who did not lose a leg, thank God; but there also is the story of her mother, Celeste, who lost both. There is the story of 29-year-old Krystie Campbell, from Arlington -- the third victim, who seemed like such a fun-loving woman. There is the story of Sean Collier, the young MIT policeman who also lost his life.
An exhibit in the Boston Public Library, which is right at the finish line, is filled with sneakers and messages and mementos from the memorial that, for months, was outside in Copley Square. A number of signs are in the room.
"Lace Up Your Shoes," one says, "And Run For Those Who Can't."
"Unified Not Terrified," another says.
Signs that say "Boston Strong" are everywhere. Everywhere.
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On Monday, 36,000 people will start the 118th Boston Marathon in Hopkinton. This is the largest field in the event's history. Each runner will have all of these stories, all of this emotion in his or her head. A crowd of more than one million people is expected to line the course -- double the size of most previous crowds -- and each of them will also carry these emotions in their heads. There will be 10,000 volunteers; 3,500 safety and law enforcement officers; and 1,800 people with media credentials. More emotions. More heads.
I could be wrong -- there might be some event that occurred during World War I or World War II or some other time I'm overlooking -- but I don't think there ever has been a day like this in American sport. This is going to be different.