Patriots Day is a big one in Boston. A 26.2-mile stretch of road is closed off for the 30,000 runners in the world’s oldest marathon. The ballpark and hotels are filled, streets crowded, and bars with a view, overflowing. The night before, a carb-heavy reservation for homemade pasta in the Italian North End neighborhood must be made weeks in advance.
This great day has been scarred by tragedy, too. Seven years ago, two homemade bombs were detonated by terrorists, resulting in the first Boston lockdown since the Blizzard of ’78. People lost their legs, lost their lives. The security lines, metal detectors and police presence the following year made us yearn for the carefree days of worrying about sneaking a few beers on the street rather than terror attacks, but the sidewalks and bars filled up and the race went on. The Red Sox’s David Ortiz said it right.
This year was different. There was no race. Hopefully there will be in September, but right now it’s hard to predict what happens tomorrow.
The streets, the squares, the bars are empty. Even historic Fenway Park, where the Red Sox have scheduled a baseball game every year since 1959, lay deserted.
Years ago I spent wonderful, delicious, and sweaty summers working for my uncle John Hall’s catering company, Tex’s BBQ Express. Sometimes I’d work with his good friend, Irish photographer Frank Kavanagh. There were no big barbecues this Patriots Day. Instead, John and Frank headed into the city with a respirator mask, a camera, and an old chair. Together, they captured a changed world.
Streets typically jammed with traffic and sidewalks overflowing with families, rowdy college kids, and ticket scalpers were empty.
Boston’s Prudential Center stands empty in the distance.
The old Citgo Sign, a constant presence in the background of Red Sox games for 80 years, stands lonely.
A usually busy intersection by the Old State House, where the British governor wielded the power of the Crown.
Government Center, where the city holds business, is now more barren than even its brutalist architecture demands.
The Bell in Hand, on the left, poured its first beer in 1795. The Union Oyster House shucked its first oyster in 1826.
Boylston Street’s famed Marathon Finish Line, where tens of thousands cross flanked by VIPs and supporters, sits near-deserted.
John and I won’t be running 26.2 miles any day in our lives, but God willing America and the world will cross this finish line again soon. Stay strong, Boston.