We just celebrated Patriot’s Day here in Boston. It’s a Massachusetts State holiday that commemorates “the shot heard ’round the world” and the start of the American Revolution. It’s also the day of the Boston Marathon, and with the bombing last year, emotions were running between remembrances (memorials to the victims and celebrations of the survivors) and defiance (“they won’t take our Marathon from us!”). Being from CA, I had never heard of Patriot’s Day, and I think that’s sad. But being here this weekend made me proud and glad than I could celebrate along with the rest of the city and state.
How did the Revolutionary War begin? Here’s how a re-enactor put it:
“The Commander-in-chief orders his military to look for weapons of mass destruction that are not confirmed to exist. The populous fight back, and a war starts that lasts 8 years. When was this? April 19, 1775, when King George III of England ordered the British soldiers stationed in Boston to search for and secure the cannons (weapons of mass destruction of the time) the rebel Colonists were said to be hoarding in Lexington and Concord. When the Americans resisted, shots were fired, the British began to retreat, and a guerrilla battle ensued down the Battle Road.”
What struck me when we went to the Minuteman National Park (located between Lexington & Concord) was how well the introductory film explained the events of that day. Since we were there during the Patriot’s Day weekend, there were numerous re-enactors in Colonial and British Army garb, and we watched a demonstration of the Battle Road skirmishes with over 100 participants and musket and cannon fire. We were also treated to a Fife and Drum concert in from of the Visitor’s Center by the 1st Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Corp. In addition, because of the Marathon security restrictions regarding backpack sizes, there was the “Ruck Walk,” a long-distance hike of military personnel carrying their fully-loaded rucksacks in memory of their fallen comrades around the Minuteman National Park. At one point, there were several soldiers talking with the re-enactors at the Hartwell Tavern (a spot were some of the fighting that day occurred). I found the mixing of militias across the centuries interesting.
Jumping ahead 2 centuries, the 118th running of the Boston Marathon yesterday was a thrilling, awe-inspiring experience. First, I had to wait over an hour in line in order to be let out onto the street. Security was very tight (as everyone had been warned), and they were restricting the number of spectators along Boylston Street where the home stretch of the Marathon occurs. But wait I did, and was rewarded with a wonderful spot just across from the 26 mile post, within sight of the finish line. There I cheered and applauded the runners along with everyone else. I had never been in the company of that many incredibly fit people, and boy was it humbling! The runners ran the gamut of young to old, with attitudes that ranged from being determined to finish with the last ounce of strength they had to the absolute jubilation that they were almost done. I stayed for two hours, watching people who had been running from almost 4 hours to 6 hours.
There were some disabled people on “blade runners,” and they really got the crowd cheering for them. There was also the sadness of what happened last year, and the small memorial that had sprung up by the finish line reminded us of it like a Jewish wedding celebration when we break the glass commemorating the sadness that often accompanies happiness. But the increased security (helicopters, bomb-sniffing dogs, lots of police) could not put a damper on this day…the day when, as a people, the residents and visitors to Boston came together to celebrate not only the runners, but our willingness to go on and live.
I think this final picture sums up the weekend…of Minutemen and marathons. Thanks to the past, thanks to the spirit of the future. Here’s looking forward to next year!