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I had this orange fleece sweatshirt that I loved. It was soft and fuzzy and the right shade of orange. Not a garish hunter’s orange or a weak coral. It was a fresh orange. A happy orange for a warm fleece.
Every time I wore it after April 15, 2013, my daughter Ruby—then age four—would point and say, “Remember that time you were wearing that and we were all running and yelling and everyone was sad?”
Yes, I remembered. After the fourth or fifth time she asked, I stopped wearing it. I was in New England; I had other fleeces.
Mark Wahlberg has a new movie out covering the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon and the bombing. I ran that race. A few things besides the ending stand out to me about that Monday. It was a cool day especially compared to the previous year in which temperatures soared into the 90s and I ended up in the medical tent dehydrated and in need of an IV bag post-race. I had taken a Lisa Kleypas paperback (Then Came You) to the athlete’s village and start line, to occupy my time while waiting. I remember listening to the Justin Timberlake running through Framingham and hugging a girl in Wellesley who held a “Kiss Me, I’m the Khalessi” sign. I was wearing a lot of hot pink. And I had a good race, requalifying for Boston with a time of 3:39:30.
My step-daughter, her boyfriend (now husband), a friend, and my daughter (in a stroller) had come to watch. I saw them at mile 15, mile 22, and then we were going to meet at the finish.
After the race, I got my medal and Mylar blanket, downed some Gatorade and ate a King’s Hawaiian roll. Then I went into a small changing tent with my bag, cleaning up with baby wipes, happy to pull off my stinky running gear. I put on that orange fleece, track pants, and compression socks. I was bent over (Oh! My aching hamstrings!) tying my shoes when the first bomb went off. I felt it in my chest, the blast wave hitting us. A lady next to me said, “Was that a transformer?” Another lady in the tent asked if they were setting off canons.
I knew they were both wrong and I got the hell out of the tent.
The second bomb went off. I spotted my family at our meeting place, the corner of Boylston and Clarendon. I was confused. What was it, besides something bad? I knew it was bad.
Then everyone around us started looking up and pointing, and this feeling of calm came over me, exposed on the street between tall buildings, that if someone wanted to kill me today, there was nothing I could do to stop them. Then someone began to scream RUN! So we did. I had to jump over fence barriers to not lose them, my step-daughter Jessica pushing Ruby away from me in the stroller. At some point we lost of our friend and couldn’t figure out what to do. We wanted to keep moving, but we couldn’t move. We eventually found her and kept going, following the crowd until we got stuck as screaming cop cars and ambulances went past us.
We made our way to Back Bay station, and unable to go inbound to catch the Green line, we took the Orange line as far out of the city as possible. Being on the near empty train calmed everyone, especially Ruby. The kindness of friends meant we were eventually retrieved. We made it back home around midnight. Driving down I-495, my daughter said to me, “I don’t like this adventure very much.” “Neither do I, Ruby. Neither do I.”
At home, I showered and crawled into bed. I sent a message on Facebook that we were okay. I laid down to sleep, exhausted. I had run a marathon, don’t forget!
I couldn’t sleep. I was scared to. I stayed up reading all night. It was like that for several months, me being ill at ease with closing my eyes. Going out in public made me cry. I couldn’t get a hold of my emotions.
The widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev shopped at my grocery store on occasion, staying with her family one island over. I don’t know what she knew. The FBI didn’t charge her, not that I have much confidence in the FBI these days. But it didn’t help turning the corner to see her there in the dairy aisle at Shaw’s. Medication helped. I was doing better by summer. Then the Fourth of July comes and fireworks sound like bombs. Medication helped some more.
I have no desire to go back to that day via the cinema and a Mark Wahlberg production. Going back to the 2014 Boston Marathon was hard enough. And in case you are wondering, yes, you can run a good marathon with Ativan in your systems. The 2013 race was real. The local and national news coverage was real. The manhunt was real. Everything was well televised. Marky Mark’s new movie is make-believe. There is nothing this guy can say that Big Papi didn’t already say better.
Wahlberg says that Patriot’s Day is a tribute the heroes and victims of that day. Nevermind that Marky Mark has created a fictionalized hero cop character for himself to play. The character’s name? Tommy Saunders. Jesus, Mark. Was Sully Mahoney too obvious? I guess the real MIT cop Sean Collier who died didn’t have a sexy enough story.
Wahlberg gets to be the good cowboy in his own fantasy, the one in the white hat and a Boston accent. This movie is not righting a wrong. Those heroes and victims have been honored and continue to be so. This movie isn’t teaching us anything new; it’s not shining a light on something we missed. It’s terror porn.
Not all movies are art. Most are created to make money. And Wahlberg has stolen this plot, stolen from those of us who were there, to cast himself as the hero in a vanity project. If you aren’t adding anything new to the narrative or revealing something unknown, you are simply cashing in. People died or lost body parts that day, and now Wahlberg gets to make some money off it. Its capitalism pretending to be tribute. I’d have more respect for him if he had cast himself as the cop arresting some punk kid in Dorchester who had committed a hate crime, circa 1986. Or the cop who arrested the same kid for a worse hate crime in 1988.
I guess we should be happy that Wahlberg has yet to give us the crassest of his fantasies on screen: re-imagining the outcome of Flight 93 with Wahlberg going full American badass and taking down the 9/11 terrorists, landing the plan safely in that field in Pennsylvania.
You wear a lot of clothes to the start line of a marathon. It can be cold and you have time to kill. You pull off the extra layers before you run, and most race organizers donate the discarded items.
I don’t typically believe in symbolic gestures. They feel fake to me. But I wore that orange fleece to the starting line of the 2014 Boston Marathon. As they called my corral number, I walked toward the Hopkinton start and pulled the fleece off, dropping it in a bin on the side of the road. I left 2013 behind me.
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