BOSTON (CBS) — When I left work in the early evening on Monday, I wasn’t searching for any inspiration. Mostly, I just wanted to forget everything that had happened that day, despite knowing full well that I never would.
Yet on the drive home, I passed by a playground. I saw parents huddled together, no doubt shaken emotionally from the events of the day, but still watching their young children play together. The kids, too young to even begin to comprehend the horrific acts that had taken place just a few miles away on Boylston Street, were having a grand old time as they climbed up the ladders, slid down the slides and swung on the swings. Nearby, some teenagers were playing basketball while a man took his evening jog down the sidewalk.
Working in a news building with uninterrupted live television coverage all day, I had been immersed and engrossed in the horror all afternoon, so the simple scene of seeing these people living their lives was remarkably soothing.
It was also inspiring.
It wasn’t much, really — just some kids and parents getting some fresh air before the sun went down — but it was exactly what the person behind this assault on humanity hoped to destroy.
He, she or they — whoever did this — wanted to ruin our lives. We mourn for those who lost their lives, as well as their friends and family, and everyone who was injured in the blasts, be it physically, emotionally or both. We are devastated to know that no matter how much we’d like to, we cannot take away their pain.
We can, however, make sure that the person behind the bombings does not win.
We can prove that together, we can send the message loud and clear: You can break our hearts, but you can’t break us.
How we go about doing that is up to us. Many brave men and women immediately rushed toward the explosions while everyone else ran away in an effort to do as much as they could to help, and their heroic actions undoubtedly saved a number of lives. The rest of us weren’t there, and our options for helping aren’t quite so clear. We can give money, but no dollar amount can replace what was taken from so many on Monday afternoon.
Perhaps the most significant action we can take isn’t a grand action at all; we can simply continue living our lives.
Those kids climbing the jungle gym on Monday evening had blissful ignorance. We can’t be quite as lucky, but we can follow their lead and continue living our lives the way we always live our lives. If we don’t, then the person or people responsible for the blood on our sidewalks will have won in their fight to instill fear and terror inside of us.
That simply cannot happen.
This person, or these people, cannot win.
We’ll do it in different ways, but there is no denying that sports will play a role in the process. It’s uncomfortable in a time like this to even talk about sports or pretend like sports are significant in any way. As someone who lives a silly enough life that leads me to write about grown men playing games for millions of dollars, I know I don’t feel appropriate debating Jackie Bradley Jr.’s roster spot or the best line combinations for the Bruins. I’m sure the guys who play the games for a living feel just as insignificant at this moment.
But while sports are not life and death, they are something which we love. We enjoy them. It’s OK to admit that.
And if we really want to do what we can, we will go back to our sports arenas, we will fill the buildings, we will honor those affected, we will belt out the national anthem as loud as we can, and we will escape from reality for a couple of hours the only way we know how.
Sports may not be very important, but it is important that we continue to enjoy them. Sports can’t change what happened — nothing can — but we can change the future. Or more accurately, we can control our future to ensure that whoever did this does not dictate our lives.
I never believe that sports are actually “important.” I never believe that what I do in covering sports is “important.” But in a weird sort of way, in moments of tragedy and horror, I feel sports actually do play an important role in our recovery.
I think of George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium in October 2001. New York City needed that. America needed that.
On a smaller scale, I think of all the conversations that tend to spring up in situations nobody likes to be – at a funeral, a hospital waiting room, wherever. In moments where we don’t particularly enjoy our current reality, we talk about sports.
The teams and the games provide the ultimate distraction from the horrors of the world, and even just its minor inconveniences. We know that life brings innumerable things that can break us down and beat us up, and sometimes, whether it’s for a three-hour game or a two-minute conversation, we want a break.
And right now, we are all broken. Patriots’ Day – our day – was taken from us this week.
It’s what you do in Massachusetts on Patriots’ Day: You go to Boston. Whether you’re from Malden, Wakefield, Quincy, Lowell, Weymouth or Lynn, you go to Boston for Marathon Monday. It’s in our fabric. It’s what we love, and it’s what we’ll love next year, the year after that, and every single year for the rest of our lives. We will never stop loving it, and this attack on our love for this day will unquestionably prove to have the opposite of its intended effect.
And in the meantime, we’ll meet at the Garden, at Fenway and at Gillette, and if we’re lucky, we’ll crowd right back onto the sidewalks of Boylston Street as a championship parade rolls right on by. We will be together, and we will be safe. What happened Monday can never change that.
We took an emotional hit Monday. One of our favorite days of the entire calendar was ruined by an evil soul. Our hearts go out to those injured or killed and all who know and love them, and we will never forget them.
The President of the United States said this week, “If you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil, that’s it: selflessly, compassionately, unafraid.”
As Bostonians, we can put those words into action starting Wednesday night at the Garden, and we’ll repeat it over and over, until it once again feels normal. The outcome of the games we attend won’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, but the act of us being there, of us standing in defiance of fear and acceptance of unity and togetherness? That most certainly does.