Tragedy struck all of Boston - including its tight-knit soccer community - with the bombing of the 117th Boston Marathon.Several members of the Boston Breakers and the New England Revolution planned to celebrate Marathon Monday like typical Bostonians. They dispersed along the 26.2 mile route from Hopkinton to Copley Square and spent their Patriots' Day basking in the glow of the sun that somehow never dimmed.
They weren't alone. Thousands upon thousands of people lined the familiar route to support friends, family members and strangers navigating through the suburbs, slogging up Heartbreak Hill and trotting their way toward the finish line at an appropriate pace.
For many people in this part of the country, this local holiday represents a sacred experience. One of those annual rituals where everyone knows someone involved in the race, someone stationed on a street corner with a sign, someone waiting at the finish line.
The familiarity and the innocence of the occasion sharpened the staggering pain we experienced shortly before three on Monday afternoon. This is our city. This is our marathon. And some person or persons saw fit to destroy their sanctity in the most vile way possible.
Details and facts will emerge in the days and weeks ahead to explain how and why these two explosions happened. The particulars we learn won't erase the anxiety we felt yesterday or the hurt we will feel from some time to come.
In lieu of context impossible to obtain in the immediate wake of such inexplicable terror, we searched desperately for answers. We turned to our phones and our social media accounts to process the conflicting information as soon as we could locate it. We breathed sighs of relief when we saw scores of colleagues and friends signal they were alright, even if they lived nowhere near the city and preferred to spend the day grilling out or lounging around the house.
Within our soccer community, we turned to these same channels to learn more about the people we followed or knew. Several players from the Breakers and the Revolution rushed to share news of their safety after posting pictures and tidbits from their perches. U.S. international defender Cat Whitehill even noted how she stood at the finish line earlier in the day before moving a mile down the course to meet up with some friends.
It felt like another close brush for our tight-knit world – still rattled by the barely comprehensible chronic myelogenous leukemia diagnosis Revolution defender Kevin Alston recently received – until word eventually spread about the harm inflicted upon the family of Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis. Reis' father-in-law, John Odom, sustained undisclosed injuries from one of the two explosions, according to a statement issued by the club on Monday night. He traveled from California to see his daughter, Nicole, run the marathon in support of the New England Patriots' charitable foundation. As he waited for her to cross that storied finish line, this disaster struck.
Our hearts broke when we heard that news and all of the other horrific details that trickled out through the night. Our prayers and our thoughts combined with the overwhelming support sent to our city by people across the nation and across the world in a desperate attempt to will all of the victims back to health as soon as humanly possible.
Our collective resolve will help us as we somehow try to heal from the emotional and physical wounds inflicted upon us. We – as Bostonians, a group that encompasses a wide swath of territory located well outside city limits right now – dig deep in times of crisis and show the depth of our character, our defiance and our fortitude. And we will need all of that strength to recover from a blow too extensive and too severe to quantify without the benefit of time and space.
But we will summon it as we attempt to honor the harmed and restore our traditions. This is still our marathon. This is still our city. And we will not let the wretched perpetrators of this act take either of those things from us.