Marathon Memories

Today, as my wife Tammy prepares to run her third marathon, and all of us in the Commonwealth mark this momentous day, I want to share these memories from the events of last year…

“But deliver us from evil”

One year ago I was stripping wallpaper on a rare day off from duties as Lt. Governor when I received the call from a staff member to let me know there had been several explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line. The staffer speculated it might be a gas related event, but my immediate fear was that it was something far more sinister given it was Patriot’s Day and the location of the blasts. I quickly cleaned up and drove to the MEMA Bunker in Framingham to meet my state police detail.

As I drove to Framingham I recalled an event earlier in our Administration when electronic devices that looked like explosives were attached to bridges in the Boston area. We were criticized by some in the Boston media at the time for overreacting to what turned out to be a hoax. But, on this day we would soon learn that the explosions at the Marathon were not a hoax but evil in our midst.

Upon my arrival at the MEMA Bunker, I was briefed by state officials and spoke with Governor Patrick by telephone as officials in Boston worked to treat the injured, secure the scene and determine if more attacks were imminent. At the Bunker multiple TV screens on the massive underground wall simultaneously ran news feeds while personnel from various local, state and federal agencies gathered information over dozens of phones and deployed resources in response to the carnage and the still unknown threat.

The federal, state and local law enforcement officials in the Bunker were triaging the information pouring in from the public as the manhunt for the terrorists was in its beginning stages. It was clear in watching and interacting with the employees in the Bunker that afternoon and evening that the many training events and exercises they had participated in over the years had prepared them well for responding to the events of this horrible day. While in the Bunker I also worked the phones to make sure that two of my staff members, Robyn Kennedy and Lauren Jones, who were running the Marathon were safe. Thankfully, they were both OK. (Tammy did not run the Marathon last year.)

The Marathon bombing for me, and for so many others, would evoke a wide range of emotions. Emotions that ranged from dark anger at the perpetrators of this heinous attack to awe at the courage of first responders who rushed in to administer first aid without knowing whether more attacks would occur. Awe for the nurses and surgeons who in a crisis situation saved so many lives at our Boston area hospitals. Governor Patrick and I spoke with the injured and their families in their hospital rooms and witnessed uncommon grace and universal appreciation by these victims and their families for efforts undertaken by total strangers in saving their lives and helping them heal.

It was frustration and sadness as a parent, as my wife and I tried to find the right words to explain the horror of what happened at the Marathon to our seven and eight year old daughters. We felt deep sorrow for the entire Richard family and prayed for their recovery and thought of Martin Richard often as our oldest daughter was preparing for her First Communion just as young Martin Richard had with his family only a year before.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing and the days that followed I remember attending with Governor Patrick the various briefings on the investigation. The terms “black hat” and “white hat” would soon become part of the public discourse. In many of those meetings Tim Alben, Colonel of the Massachusetts State Police, impressed and reassured me with his leadership skills. While not as visible on TV as some of his law enforcement counterparts, Col. Alben’s professional demeanor and genuine efforts at keeping previous fissures between state and local law enforcement with the FBI from, in anyway, slowing the pace of the manhunt for the suspects was one of the most impressive displays of leadership I had ever witnessed. Governor Patrick himself noticed and commented on this Holyoke native’s leadership skills on several occasions throughout the crisis.

Following the Watertown firefight on Thursday morning between the terrorists and police, I recall the conference call discussions with key staff about whether the Governor should request people to shelter in place and not leave their homes while the police continued their search. On the call discussing about whether to go forward with this request someone asked, “Do you think the public will comply?” I recall the Governor saying, “I am not totally sure but I believe they know what is at stake.”

The Governor’s instincts were correct and it was incredibly gratifying to see the people of Watertown and the greater Boston area display such solidarity in supporting the law enforcement community by staying in their homes while the police continued their search. In Watertown this public response was, no doubt, out of respect to the unsung heroes of the Watertown Police department and their Chief Ed Deveau.

In the afternoon following the Watertown shootout, I joined Governor Patrick at Mount Auburn hospital to visit the family of MBTA Officer “Dic” Donohue who was wounded in the firefight and who was in critical condition. Like the Governor, I was moved at the amazing strength displayed by Officer Donohue’s wife Kim during our conversation with her. Her love of her husband, her faith in his strength to recover and her sense of humor in talking about their son Dic, Jr. at such a difficult moment is something I continue to marvel at when I think about the events following the bombing.

Moments after that visit the Governor and I were traveling with our police detail through Harvard Square. It was surreal to drive through this perpetual hub of human activity and not see one individual or vehicle in the area other than ourselves. In a few moments, however, we would have one of the only moments of levity during this crisis when we stopped at Charlie’s Burgers in Harvard Square at the suggestion of Trooper John Maguire, a veteran trooper who has worked for four different Governors.

We found Charlie’s Kitchen open for business. When we walked in to the restaurant the customers and staff stood up and gave the Governor a standing ovation and many of them personally thanked the Governor and the troopers for their work. While we were eating our burgers, one individual who had apparently been at the bar for some time came over several times to thank the Governor and give some pats on the back for the troopers. This brought some humor to the table and a needed belly laugh from the Governor when I commented that our frequent table visitor must have been “sheltering in place” at the bar since the night before.

Over the course of the ten days following the bombing there were, sadly, funerals and memorial events to attend. They are seared forever in my memory. The Memorial service attended by President Obama was poignant not just because of the uplifting oratory and music but also because of the symbolism of a physically challenged Mayor Menino lifting himself out of his wheelchair to stand and speak. His actions symbolized how not only he but the entire city of Boston would again stand proudly despite what had occurred. I also told my wife that I was honored that Governor Patrick in his remarks had echoed a line I often used when he talked about how America was invented in Massachusetts.

The city of Medford came out in force to support the family of Krystle Campbell who was 29 years old. Her funeral Mass was held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church where she had received her First Communion as well. Fr. Chip Hines spoke eloquently of how her parents wanted her remembered as she was seen in so many pictures and in life, full of smiles and kindness. Later that evening at Boston University, the campus and family of Lu Lingzi who had come from China upon hearing of their daughter’s death gathered to remember the 23 year old student. Her father spoke to the crowd at the service through the help of a translator. His words were full of the love and pride that he and his wife had for their daughter, Lingzi, and her accomplishments. His remarks demonstrated a commonality that transcends countries and languages. Parents whether they are from Dorchester or Medford, Shenyang, China or Somerville love their kids and want the best for them and grieve deeply when they lose their child prematurely. Lingzi’s father also shared an ancient Chinese saying that all parents can understand, “Every child is actually a little Buddha that helps their parents mature and grow up.”

On Wednesday in the week following the Marathon bombing, Officer Sean Collier, a young 26 year old MIT Police Officer who had been murdered by the terrorists, was honored in a public ceremony with 5,000 police and first responders and Vice President Biden present at MIT. The day before that, I attended the private funeral Mass of Officer Collier at St. Patrick’s Church in Stoneham. During the funeral Mass, Cardinal Sean O’Malley led the church in saying the “Lord’s Prayer.”

While reciting this familiar prayer standing next to Governor Patrick in unison with the Collier family and all those assembled in the parish, the last five words of this prayer struck me in a new and different way. “But deliver us from evil” seemed to sum up all that I had witnessed and been a part of as Lieutenant Governor over the previous eight days. Yes, we saw evil but in the days that followed we were delivered from this evil by the heroism of our first responders and the law enforcement community, by the grace and love and healing hands of the doctors and nurses that cared for the wounded, by the bonds of family love seeking to comfort in a time of loss, by citizens heeding the call to assist both law enforcement and the victims, by a city and state coming together as One Commonwealth.

Now every time I say the Lord’s Prayer, I think of those days and remember that it was the very best of the human spirit that delivered us from evil on and after that fateful Patriot’s Day, 2013.

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