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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Robin Essay: Boston Marathon Bombings

Here & Now's Robin Young recalls cheering on Bill Rodgers of the Greater Boston Track Club as he approached the finish line to win the Boston Marathon on April 21, 1975. (AP)

Here & Now’s Robin Young recalls cheering on Bill Rodgers of the Greater Boston Track Club as he approached the finish line to win the Boston Marathon on April 21, 1975. (AP)

So, what to make of this?

You know it’s almost embarrassing how great Patriots’ Day is here in Massachusetts.

You want historical reenactments? Ours start at the crack of dawn with the ringing of the Old Belfry bell next to Battle Green in Lexington, where earnest citizens, dressed as either the Lexington Minutemen Company or His Majesty’s Tenth Regiment of Foot, go at it in a reenactment of Battle of Lexington, 5:45 a.m. April 19, 1774.

I lived in Lexington a million years ago and was thrown out of bed by the cannon booms!

Yesterday when I saw the explosions, I thought for a split second of the musket smoke shrouding the Lexington Green.

At about the same time, thousands more runners begin boarding buses for the drive out to Hopkinton for the start of the Marathon.

But they’ve been here all weekend, as much a sign of spring as crocuses and yellow slickers.

I saw them at the Sox game on Sunday – they stood out. No offense Red Sox fans, they obviously hadn’t been sitting around watching baseball games, they were in such great shape.

There was another Red Sox game yesterday, the only one in major league baseball played in the morning, out of respect for the Marathon.

Fenway Park is just a stone’s throw from the finish line so the two events tend to blend. In fact, one of my favorite memories involves both.

I was a young director working the game for the old TV-38, when word came that the local favorite, Billy Rodgers was coming down Comm. Ave, and was going to win the Boston Marathon.

I dropped my cables and started running to the old Eliot Lounge On Comm. Ave, which bartender Tommy Leonard had turned into a favorite watering hole for runners, including his best friend Billy.

And as I ran I heard this clicking noise. Right behind me, Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee was in full uniform, glove in hand, cleats clacking, running to cheer his pal Billy on – which we did, screaming our heads off as he rounded the corner to the finish line.

Yesterday when I saw the explosions, I thought for a split second of the musket smoke shrouding the Lexington Green.

Who could have imagined that runners and their supporters would suddenly seem as brave?

Two grown sons from the Norden family of Wakefield, Mass. each lost a leg. An eight-year-old was killed, and his seven-year-old sister lost a leg.

This morning I talked to a friend, Dr. Ron Medzon, an emergency physician at Boston Medical Center’s emergency room.

He said a young woman begged him to save her leg. “I’m a world class dancer,” she said. He had to tell her, it may be too far gone.

Then he said something marvelous.

I asked him how he was feeling. Was there a sense of something being “over” in Boston? He said no.

“I’m angry. I’m angry at the temerity of someone who would do this. But you know what? If they wanted to kill a lot of people? They picked the wrong marathon. They picked the wrong city. We must have saved 20 people today just at our hospital. There are five others.”

I don’t know if they will decide to run again next year. But if they do, they will be, to me, as heroic as those farmers years ago in Lexington.

And we who live here? Pledge to be there as well. Screaming our heads off.

As Dr. Medzon said earlier: Whoever did this, they picked the wrong Marathon. They picked the wrong city.


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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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