A year later, Boston Marathon provides inspiration, dedication and drive
MAR 31, 2014 12:00p ET
To reduce it to the level of a sports movie, the 2014 Boston Marathon is a comeback story. It is a city, a sporting event and an unknowable number of individual people getting knocked down and getting back up.
Sports lend themselves to metaphor that way. They so often transcend the mechanics of what happened to become about what it meant.
In the coming weeks, you’ll see in our series at FOXSports.com what it means to more than two dozen people directly affected by the bombing at last year’s marathon. An uninjured runner stricken with survivor’s guilt. The Man in the Cowboy Hat, who instead of running away from the blast, rushed in to help the injured. The city’s oldest and most beloved sports franchise, the Red Sox, bringing the city a championship. A woman who took up running just so she could run in this year’s marathon, to prove – to herself, if nobody else -- she wasn’t going to be afraid.
So 2014 is the comeback, because 2013 was the knockdown.
Last April 15, long after the elite runners had finished, two home-made bombs filled with shrapnel detonated near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed and a couple hundred more were injured. For most of a week, nobody knew why. Not that an explanation would have helped anything. It was an act of terrorism.
A five-day manhunt that included the murder of a police officer ended in a shootout. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, believed to be the mastermind behind the plot, lay dead in the street, filled with bullets after a shootout with police. His brother, Dzokhar, was captured alive hours later, hiding in a boat in Watertown, bleeding all over it.
He’s been charged with 30 crimes, including using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death. The U.S. Attorney General in January announced prosecutors would seek the death penalty.
Tsarnaev is in solitary confinement as he awaits his trial Nov. 3.
“This will undoubtedly be a lengthy trial,” U.S. District Court judge George O’Toole said last month upon setting the trial date.
Tsarnaev’s arrest brought an end to the immediate terror that had infected Boston for those five days, and the city could begin putting itself back together again. The Forum restaurant on Boylston Street, which had been damaged by the second blast and had been taped off as a crime scene, opened again four months to the day after the bombing.
On the six-month anniversary of the bombing, the Red Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 1-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the American League Championship Series. The most visible totem of the city’s “Boston Strong” rallying cry, the Red Sox won six of their next nine games to bring the city its eighth World Series championship.
Closure is a bad word for what that gave Boston, but if symbolism matters at all, then there was something profound in the city getting up off the ground and conquering the world. It proved the hashtags and T-shirts right – that Boston was strong.
But everybody already knew that.
Security at this year’s marathon will be unprecedented. There will be 3,500 officers along the 26.2-mile course, but officials are trying to be careful about making the day as safe as possible without ruining the event with an aggressive police presence.
It is not an easy trick to pull, says Tom Nolan, a former Boston Police Department official who is now chairman of the criminal justice department at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.
“The police have to walk a delicate line between trying to convey to people that they are safe and not sending the message that, because of the militarized presence, they have something to fear," he told Reuters. "The public may not necessarily be reassured about their safety when they see police officers with machine guns and military uniforms and dogs.”
Race officials and law enforcement agencies aren’t aware of any specific threats to the 2014 Boston Marathon, which is on April 21. But backpacks and large bags will be banned near the finish line and fans will be inspected at security checkpoints near the course.
Officials acknowledge that, of course, they can never completely eliminate risk, and some runners and spectators have told various press agencies they have some reservations about this year’s event.
That includes Dave McGillivray, who has been the director of the Boston Marathon for the last 26 years. Last year, as in most years, his wife Katie brought their 7-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. This year they’re staying home.
The kids are scared.
“We saw both explosions,” Katie told the Boston Globe. “They’ve expressed fear about going back.”
Dave will be there, of course, but his job has been made more difficult than ever. Because runners can’t bring bags, which they would normally use to carry garments to keep them warm after they finish, McGillivray bought a bunch of lined ponchos to hand out as runners finished.
The National Guard will have 130 guardsmen walk the course the morning of the race. Doctors, nurses and other volunteers will be on hand in record numbers too.
“We’re assuming nothing,” he told the Globe. “We have to spend a lot of time going through all the details.”
But Boston, and its marathon, is back.
This year 36,000 runners registered for the Boston Marathon. It’s the second-largest field in the event’s history. There is plenty of residual fear, but McGillivray says he is prepared.
“I think it’s going to be the safest place on the planet,” he said.