Series title helps city of Boston continue to heal
Fans gather at site of Marathon bombings to remember victims, heroes
BOSTON -- They reclaimed their turf not long after Koji Uehara threw the last pitch. They placed Red Sox jerseys and other items on top of the yellow Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston St., beside the construction fencing along the sidewalk, and they jumped up and down in masses around that same spot where the first bomb went off. They shouted it with meaning:
"BOSTON STRONG! BOSTON STRONG!"
The words echoed into the night amid the din of cars honking and sirens blaring. There are no perfect endings after life and limb are lost, but this was the best thing this great American city could hope for Wednesday night. The Red Sox won the 109th World Series, beating the Cardinals in six games, and took the next step in a healing process that followed the Patriots' Day bombings at the Boston Marathon.
"It's a very resilient city with great history for our country in establishing freedom, and a lot of American principles go back to 1775 and earlier," said Everett Spain of Boston, an active Army officer and a first responder at the finish line spot. He spoke solemly amid the revelry. "It's a great honor to the victims of the Boston Marathon and a show of strength by a wonderful American city."
Spain was escorting blind runner Steve Sabra of Omaha, Neb., when the first bomb went off on a day that was supposed to be so beautiful. At that moment, they were between the two bombing sites.
"The first bomb exploded about 60 meters in front of us to our left," Spain said. "We were privileged, myself and another runner, to get the blind runner to safety. I was privileged to be a first responder. We were in between the two bombs, much closer to the first one.
"It was a terrible tragedy seeing so many first responders. It was an honor to see and be a small part of such a wonderful response of the community rallying around people who were in an unfortunate place. But it was a great event, and the Boston Marathon will be back stronger than ever. Many of the victims are stronger, and the community has rallied around them, and they're making me very proud moving forward and showing that Americans never quit and we stick together."
The site of the first bomb is under extensive construction, with fencing throughout the block. Bernie Gardella of Jamaica Plain stood on what she believed was the precise point where the backpack sat, sending lethal shrapnel into the bodies of innocent race spectators.
Gardella refused to move as the crowds swelled around her.
"I'm standing here on the site of the bomb, and I'm just trying to create a tribute to the people who were affected," she said. "It means a whole lot, to the city, to the people who went through it. The Red Sox had a whole lot to do with paying tribute, and this is the best tribute they could have done.
"It's like people cheering and going by and shouting and screaming, and I feel the same way, but I'm also sad. It's all happening right here and there's not a single rose or flower. It's a mixed feeling. I feel like I'm being a sentinel on this spot."
Gardella noted that the Duck Boat parade went by this very spot on Boylston in 2004 and '07, and she added: "It should be really interesting this time."
As she spoke, Kevin Schiffman of South Weymouth was placing his Red Sox jersey on the yellow finish line. Once he did that, it started a movement. The crowds were gradually heading this way like a giant wave flowing from the Fenway area, and soon it was the scene of a mass event. It was a combination of celebration and respectful tribute, progressively rowdy as midnight came and went. This was pure emotion on display, a title won, some poetic justice.
It was the city truly reclaiming its spot, in the way it knew best.
"We were watching the game at McGreevy's, a Dropkick Murphys bar, and we decided to come here afterward and pay our respect," Schiffman said. "A bunch of friends and family were in [the Marathon], and they never got to finish."
Ed Gorman, 59, was unable to hold back tears as he stood near the spot of the first bombing and thought about everything that had happened in 2013.
"To me, it's overwhelming," Gormansaid, "that this could happen in this past year to this great city I love. I grew up in Massachusetts, I've lived in Boston 17 years, and my dad always said I was a Sox fan before I was baptized. Right here on this block, especially, I don't think I have the words to describe how I feel."
Arnold Rosen lives on Beacon Hill, and he was a half-block from the finish line when the first bomb went off. People began rushing toward him, and when he saw the second bomb go off, he understood why.
Rosen said this felt like "a fairy tale" after the tragedy so many shared in April.
"It's like this whole season had to happen," Rosen said. "This is the culmination of how everyone has come together. It is the most appropriate finish to a baseball season."