When I was a kid growing up in historic Concord, MA, I lived on the same street as the North Bridge. This is the bridge where the Revolutionary War was fought. And on April 19th each year, the town celebrates the battle of the 500 Minutemen and their battle against the “red coats” of England. And I was awoken every April 19th to the sound of a cannon blast commemorating this event. Though I knew to expect it every year, it still scared the hell out of me each time I heard it. But on the positive side, that blast also meant the official start to April vacation.
The other notable event that took place during that first day of vacation was watching the Boston Marathon. Whether you watched on television or attended in person, every kid knew who the winner of the Marathon was. It was in the days of Bill Rodgers, an American runner who won four times. He was a hometown hero who gave us a real sense of Boston pride. In those far less complicated days, we had no idea how much we’d be feeling that Boston pride by coming together again for a different Marathon-related reason thirty years later.
Last year on Marathon Monday, I was in Jamaica on vacation with my daughters when I got notice from my team about the bombings. Our office was on Boylston Street; literally steps from the finish line. And as was tradition, most of our people were enjoying the Marathon because of its easy access. Some were at local restaurants and bars. Some were lining the streets, or at apartments nearby. And some were running the race. And I, the one who is responsible for “the people” was on sitting on a lounge chair in the sun when I got the news. I have never felt so helpless. In my mind, that annoying cannon blast I grew up with symbolizing the start to vacation immediately morphed into a bomb blast representing the loss of life.
My team, our CEO, and I worked together virtually to account for everyone. It took hours. Thankfully, everyone was safe. It ultimately changed the way we deal with “crisis” situations at work, which is one small side benefit. Everything else about it was horrible. It reminded me of 9/11, when we went through the same drill at another company. It is a awful feeling, trying to account for so many people in potential danger. Especially people you really care about.
Today, at 6:00 am when I typically fly into work, traffic was at a standstill as I approached Boston. The city was filling, people eager to honor those survivors and the lives lost last year. I didn’t care about the traffic this morning. Those people deserve that respect. And while I am certain those who attended the somber events today were somewhat melancholy, the strength and courage the survivors showed and the rallying this entire city has done to show support is what Boston Strong is all about.
Bill Rogers must be proud. I know I am. #bostonstrong.