This Is Our Fucking City

Here in Boston, Fenway Park was the place to be on Saturday.  37,000 fans, crammed into the old wooden seats, the narrow walkways, and the cavernous green concourses bordered by a bright spring sky.  37,000 fans erupted during a pregame ceremony for the ages, applauding until they were hoarse for the first responders, the government leaders, and the victims that have become part of our world this week.  Yelling into the beautiful expanse of baseball diamond, shouting out names and “thank you”s and singing the national anthem.  Cheering loudly for, well, the chance to cheer loudly.

b_strong_white“This is our fucking city,” David Ortiz told us on the day of his return to the lineup.  He told us that, we loved it, and the Sox won on a majestic Daniel Nava three-run homer.  You couldn’t have written a movie script any better.

It must have felt incredibly liberating to be at Fenway on Saturday, to be loud and out in the open, to be obvious and unafraid and within arm’s reach of so many others who were within arm’s reach of you, because Friday in Boston was the opposite.  As the SWAT teams and the bomb-sniffing dogs and the endless, endless lines of police cruisers patrolled Watertown, Boston, Cambridge and surrounding communities, we were all – every single one of us – subject to an order to stay inside, draw your shades, and not open the door for anyone but “a properly-identified law enforcement officer.”

Ask yourself this: what do you do when you wake up on a Friday morning to what feels like a dream – a really screwed up, bizarre, barely believable dream?  When you wake up already thinking about the motions and phone calls and emails and to-dos that stand between you and the end of the work week, and your wife, who has bags under her eyes from tracking the news all night, tells you that “they found them, well, they’re chasing them, well, one of them’s already dead, they’re from Chechnya! They robbed that 7-11 in Central Square, you know the one, and then they shot a cop at MIT, and then they carjacked this SUV and drove it to Watertown and then they got in a shootout and one of them, Black Hat, was killed, and now they’re looking for the other one – White Hat.”

Imagine waking up to that.  Here’s what I know about Watertown: there are batting cages there, near that huge five-way intersection (you know the one) that scares the daylights out of drivers without the guts and steely reserve that Boston requires.  My slow-pitch team rents out the cages this time of year to get ready for our season.  There’s a decent pizza place up the street from the batting cages, kind of across from the Starbucks.  There’s a Home Depot and a Target there, that we cruise through the baby aisle at regularly.

Here’s what you do when you wake up on a Friday morning to that kind of onslaught.  You throw on sweats and a hoodie, make some coffee, and you glue yourself to the TV showing police and army guys and reporters swarming all over the town that you identify with cases of inexpensive baby wipes and smelly ill-fitting mandatory batting helmets.  You watch all day, you speculate, you honestly get a little bored with the lack of developments.  You read your book, you thumb through your magazines.  You clean the kitchen while listening to the radio so you don’t miss anything.  You fold laundry.  You scuttle around the immediate neighborhood with the dog, who’s acting like she really has to pee, but you peer around corners, stay off main roads, and keep your cell phone on its loudest volume in case your wife calls to tell you that now they think the bomber’s in the few square miles you call your own and you should run home.  All the dog did outside was eat grass, you complain when you get back – I’m standing there in plain sight, wearing a bright yellow “Boston Strong” t-shirt, even, when there’s a lunatic running around town planning god knows what, and we’re all supposed to be inside, and the dog wants to eat grass?  You look out the window whenever you hear a car engine or a siren – it’s a police cruiser, it’s an ambulance that sounds like it’s headed towards the hospital, it’s an ice cream truck?  Why is there an ice cream truck out today?

That’s why Fenway was such a beautiful sight on Saturday.  On Friday, this city was not ours.  On Friday, this city was Tsarnaev’s.  We can talk about how Friday’s shelter order was a key measure in tactical strategy and public safety that let law enforcement do its work, and that our cooperation was a show of solidarity and defiance that proved we’d already won.  We can talk about that (it feels pretty good to write it).  But the other side of that is, I was scared because my dog was taking too long to enjoy her loop around the deserted neighborhood.  I was appalled that an ice cream truck would even think to drive down my street.  I was listening to sirens and watching repetitive, unchanging news reports telling me things I already knew and questioning whether my neighbor should really let her six-year-old play in the front yard.  On Friday, this city wasn’t mine.  On Friday, this neighborhood wasn’t mine.  On Friday, this block wasn’t even mine.

Was this all an overreaction?  Looking back, maybe – probably, even.  It’s easy to feel silly for rushing your exuberant, galumphing, just-happy-to-be-here dog around corners and keeping your shades drawn and double-checking your locks when, it turns out that the entire time, Tsarnaev was hiding.  He was trapped and bleeding and slowly running out of will, in a boat high and dry in a backyard in Watertown.  The whole time, this kid was stuck a good six miles away and only a block or two from what was probably the biggest assembly of troops in the area since the very Lexington and Concord that the Marathon itself celebrates.  I mean, that sounds silly.  The guy – the boy, mind you, the teenager – that held this entire area breathless in the palm of his hand all day, that stopped the T, that shuttered downtown, that kept cars off the road and children inside – he was trapped, hiding, cowering, out of options and marooned in a boat on dry land.

But, silly as it may be, it was true at the time.  For one day – a beautiful, warm, sunny, tempting day – this was Tsarnaev’s city.  But, it’s not anymore.  “This is our fucking city,” David Ortiz proclaimed to the packed crowd, the busy field, the American flag hanging off the Monster at Fenway on Saturday, and he was so right, so perfectly on-point, that the FCC isn’t even going to fine anybody.  This is our city again, our fucking city.  It felt good to be able to let the dog sniff around and roll in the grass and maybe even chase a few squirrels for good measure yesterday; it felt good to have breakfast at this great, crowded, loud neighborhood spot this morning; it will feel good to grab my wallet and chase down the next ice cream truck i see (be honest, who doesn’t love the ice cream truck?).  This is our city again – Ortiz said it, and Fenway proved him right on Saturday.

3 thoughts on “This Is Our Fucking City

  1. Kristin Bono says:

    Extremely well said

  2. Stacy Johnson says:

    Love.

  3. sloanpeterson2 says:

    Very well written post that lets everyone outside of the area get a glimpse of what you have gone through in the last week…

Leave a Reply