What makes a person a Bostonian? What is needed to say that you are a part of this city?
Not too long ago, the prevailing school of thought was that, unless you were born, raised, went to school, and had settled down in Boston proper, you were not really a Bostonian. Being a true Bostonian was a very exclusive club, and if you skimped on any of the aforementioned attributes, you were, at best, a wannabe – or a townie. If you crossed the border into any number of the neighboring towns – Watertown, Somerville, Everett, Newton, Quincy – then you revoked your pure Boston identity. If you moved here from outside of Boston, or if you moved out of Boston – yup, not really Boston.
In light of the approaching Boston Marathon – and as we get closer to the one-year anniversary of the Marathon Bombing – I only have one thing to say:
Everything has changed, including what makes a person a part of Boston.
To everyone, both in Boston as well as all of the surrounding areas. To the people who moved here, who moved away from here, or who even just touch down here from time to time in the course of your busy lives. If you cheer for any of our sports teams. If the skyline puts a smile on your face or if your heart skips a beat when you hear the first three seconds of The Standells’ “Dirty Water”…
You are Boston.
If you prefer “Sweet Caroline” over “Dirty Water” — or if you don’t equate any song with the city — you are Boston. If you feel a bit of pride every time they film another movie in the area — even if it’s another crappy Kevin James movie — you are Boston. If you roll your eyes every time they film another movie in the area because it might be another crappy Kevin James movie (and no movie will ever really do the city justice), you are Boston.
If you moved here from anywhere on the globe to get one of the best educations in the world, you are Boston. It doesn’t matter if your college is in the heart of Boston, the outskirts of Boston, or completely outside of Boston and in a city like Cambridge (which, yes, is its own municipality). It doesn’t matter if you came here on scholarship, for sports, or for graduate school. It doesn’t matter if you have to board a plane or take the T to visit home. It doesn’t matter if you move out immediately after graduation or if you immediately put down your stakes and set up shop.
You are Boston.
If you tuned in to the news on April 15, 2013, and found out that two bombs had gone off by the finish line of the Boston Marathon. If you felt a pit form in your stomach or your heart rise to your throat when President Obama came on the airwaves and talked about the resiliency of this beautiful little city. If you prayed for those who were hurt, for those who were killed, and for the family & friends who mourned them. If you gave to the One Fund or wore a “We Run for Boston” shirt or simply kept Boston in your heart when it was your turn to be at a starting line. If you signed up for a race, or went for a jog, or simply hugged loved ones just a little tighter in honor of those affected during that fateful day…
You are Boston.
If you were there when those blasts went off. If you ran for your lives, away from the explosions. If you ran towards the explosions to desperately see where and how you could help. If you ran to the Red Cross to donate time or money or blood. If you provided shelter and support to displaced runners. If you were a displaced runner. If you sang the National Anthem with all of your heart and soul during the Bruins game that Thursday. If you watched the video of that National Anthem and recognized that Boston’s spirit cannot be broken that easily. If you were a police officer out on the scene that following Friday. If you helped the police officers in any way during that day, even if it was just by agreeing to stay inside and not interfere. If you turned on the TV or the radio and found that the usual entertainment was replaced with a constant stream of news updates and truly understood the gravity of the situation. If you cheered in the streets or if you cheered at home, if only because you knew that the residents of Boston felt such a tremendous wave of relief. If you honored that moment of silence the following Monday in any way, shape, or form…
You are Boston. You are truly Boston in ways that I’ll never be able to properly articulate.
And to the runners who are coming in from the four corners of the world. To the volunteers and the bystanders from all walks of life, who are traveling to or within Boston to support those who are running this year: you are Boston. It doesn’t matter if this is your first time in the city, if you don’t speak the language, if you get frustrated at the confusing street signs and jaywalking pedestrians.
You are Boston. No questions asked. No explanations needed.
Lastly, if you are reading this and feel anything for this quirky, flawed city, perfect in its imperfections, and the people who call it home (even when abroad). If you can grasp even an iota of just how much this city means to its people and how deeply last year’s event affected us.
If you can take a moment for Martin William Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, and Sean Collier. If you can take a moment for those who lost limbs, family members, friends, that sense of trust and security – not rolling your eyes or comparing it to other world events or saying, “your city wasn’t leveled by Godzilla,” but genuinely and solemnly take a moment for everyone who was affected…
You are Boston. And we’re so happy to have you on board.
Welcome to Boston. Every single one of you.