BOSTON (CBS) — About 20 minutes before the Bruins took the ice to host the Sabres in a game with the power of guaranteeing Boston a playoff berth, my buddy Josh – a casual hockey fan, at best – sent me a text that better captured the importance of the game for the city:
“I’ve never been excited to watch a regular season game. But tonight is something special.”
There are so few moments that you expect to be great, yet manage to evoke an even more body-trembling emotion.
I knew my wife would be beautiful when I saw her for the first time on our wedding day, but a camera lens – and there were many – could never truly capture what I saw with my own eyes that afternoon.
The first time I held my son — I had dreamed about that moment, and still no words exist that would properly describe my simultaneous feelings of love and powerlessness.
What I love about being a sports fan is that other instances of that ilk tend to take place on a very public stage, as one did on Wednesday night at the TD Garden.
Roughly 52 hours after an unspeakable tragedy occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, a capacity crowd approaching 18,000 gathered into one building, a place some could have easily feared as another target of terrorism, while others couldn’t have felt more secure in their safety.
I watched from home with my wife and son, waiting all day through hours of talk radio as a shaken community of listeners called in to react, reflect and try to regroup.
At about 7:35 p.m., Rene Rancourt took the ice, as he’s done a million times before, but this time was different. He was joined by members of the Boston Fire Department Honor Guard to represent the city’s first responders. Then, in a moment that was undoubtedly planned but unfolded with the smoothest of spontaneity, he stopped singing a few bars into the national anthem and let the fans take over.
And take over they did, each note louder than the one that preceded it. Players, members of both teams, sang along. Fans from across the United States cried, whether they were in attendance or on their couches. Many held flags. That was followed by deafening chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” and “Let’s Go Boston,” rather than the usual “Let’s Go Bruins.”
My son is 8 months old. I feel blessed that he’s so blissfully ignorant to the horrors of this world, that he’s far too young to wonder why everything we’ve watched on television these last few days has been met with tears, fears and unanswerable questions. He’s our happy place.
When we sat to watch the pregame ceremony, it was a few minutes before the Garden’s magnificent video presentation. He fidgeted around my wife’s lap, reaching for the remote, her phone, or anything he could find to stay amused. Then the music began and the pictures captivated him, all three of us.
At the start of the anthem, he was silent, jaw dropped as he stared wide-eyed at the television. Not a one of us could muster a peep. He didn’t have any notion of what was happening, or why it was such an incredible moment but – even briefly – it felt like he understood, that he knew he was seeing something powerful.
Like most people, I’ve had countless conversations with family and friends about the heartbreak that unfolded at 2:50 on Monday afternoon. Talking helps, though the reality of the situation seemed to magnify as the number of victims injured rapidly grew by the dozens. While on a remarkably smaller scale, this was Boston’s 9/11, and we’re fortunate it wasn’t worse. Imagining what could have been as compared to what was, frankly, is even more painfully jarring.
I know this: It didn’t matter if the Bruins won on Wednesday, nor the Red Sox on Tuesday. Just having those teams, those players that we root for and concurrently complain about on a daily basis back was enough. It was a step toward normalcy.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people will never be able to move on from the 117th Boston Marathon, for one crippling reason or another. They’ll spend the rest of their lives running from those memories. Others, I guarantee, will come back even stronger and still find a way to compete, proving that limbs can be broken, but spirits cannot.
In the meantime, the focus for all of us now is on healing. After the Bruins’ eventual shootout loss, numbing chants of “U-S-A” again echoed throughout the Garden as both teams stick-saluted the crowd at center-ice. The message was clear, from the ice to the stands.
We’re in this together.
Adam Kaufman, a native of Massachusetts, joined the Sports Hub as an on-air personality in June 2011. He has worked as a television and radio anchor and broadcaster for various outlets since 2004, and his written views on sports and entertainment have appeared on NESN.com and in the New England Hockey Journal. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamMKaufman.