Strength in the Face of Evil

I stood at the Boston Marathon finish line yesterday. It was just past midnight, and my girlfriend and I had just completed the Midnight Marathon, a playful group bike ride which tracks the marathon’s route on its 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Copley Square. The official race had yet to start, but the viewing stands were already in place and Boylston Street was partially shut down. In just a few hours, thousands of runners and spectators would fill the area to share in the joy of completing one of humanity’s most difficult athletic challenges. For now, however, the street was barren. The contrast was striking, leading me to snap a blurry picture of a then-desolate finish line:

The Finish Line, before the race had begunThe Boston Marathon Finish Line

This place is now a crime scene. Mere hours after this photograph was taken, some twisted individual or group decided to injure and kill innocent men, women, and children by setting off bombs at the end of one of the world’s most famous running events. No one has yet claimed responsibility, but very little will change if they do. There can be no real logic or reason behind such a heinous action.

But at the time, the hellishness was still to come for our city. And so having finished our own race, we slowly pedaled back home to Cambridge. As we did, we were delighted to come upon the work of some enterprising MIT students. They’d turned the Boston-facing side of the campus’s Building 54 into a giant game board, upon which a massive-scale game of Tetris was being played.

MITris in Action
MITris in Action

After first seeing the game from across the river, we biked closer to check it out. I took a turn at the controls and enjoyed a bigger-than-life version of a game so many know and love. I smiled as I played, and even more as I thought about the spirit of the whole goofy endeavor: this was quintessentially Boston. That night, I went to bed both tired and happy.

Today, I wake to somberness, as we deal with the aftermath of a senseless attack. For now, fear and anger have replaced whimsy and good humor in our town. The violence was perpetrated on a holiday we in Massachusetts celebrate as Patriots’ Day, a day which commemorates the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775. That day began with the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere and the subsequent Battles of Lexington and Concord which marked the start of armed conflict against the British. Just as they must have been more than two centuries past, people today are frightened and concerned. But now, just as it was 238 years ago, Boston is defiant.

Yesterday, only a few hours after the explosions that rocked our city, Building 54 was again hacked by folks at MIT. This time, the massive architectural canvas was used to spread a message of pride, of strength, and of resilience. Looking across the Charles River last night, this was the view from the cradle of modern America:

Building 54 Showing Old Glory

Boston stands strong.