Boston pride buoys city amid tragedy

Story highlights

  • Boston bartender: "We pride ourselves on this family-community way of being"
  • Prosecutor: The bombing exposed Boston's strength, not weakness
  • Rich in history and diversity, Boston is the quintessential little big town
  • The attack left an indelible mark, but mayor says it's "time to move this city forward"

The "Green Monster," a wall that looms 37 feet over left field in Fenway Park, may just about sum up the kind of pride Bostonians have for their city: It's old, immense and helps guard against cheap shots.

So when two bombs tore through the crowds at the Boston Marathon last week, the city's response was so instinctive and full-throated that it made even the most ardent of Yankees fans a little proud.

"We pride ourselves on this family-community way of being," said Mariah MacFarlane, a North End resident tending bar downtown.

"Any person who attempts to disrupt that, there's no chance we're not going to take it personally."

Natives often tout their Boston bona fides when traveling outside the city, added resident Stephen Tang. And when there's trouble, "everybody helps out."

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That played out in the heart of the city last week as first responders rushed to help scores hurt in the smoldering aftermath of a rare terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The April 15 bombings killed three people and injured more than 170.

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But by nearly all accounts, it could have been much worse.

"Moments like these, terrible as they are, don't show our weakness; they show our strength," said Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley.

Days later, Boston transformed into a virtual ghost town as authorities fanned out across the region and honed in on one of two surviving bombing suspects in a quiet suburb roughly 10 miles west of the attack.

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When the lockdown was lifted and the suspect in custody, residents poured out onto city streets to cheer on police and chant, "We love Boston!"

"It's in your blood," said Colleen Bergeron, a Massachusetts native who has since moved to Richmond, Virginia. "Even my grandmother's a Red Sox fan."

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"I've lived all across the country and there's nothing like it," she added.

The city, New England's biggest, anchors a half-ring of suburbs that make it the nation's 10th-largest metropolitan area. But Boston is the quintessential little big town, with a deep reservoir of history that includes often embellished tales of Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. Its brick-bound patchwork of ethnic enclaves and blue-collar neighborhoods give the place both a sense of community and a don't-mess-with-us air.

Still, last week's attacks likely will leave an indelible impression on its time-honored traditions. On the third Monday of April every year dating back to 1897, Massachusetts has celebrated Patriot's Day with the running of the Boston Marathon.

"Here's what you usually do on marathon Monday," explained 30-year-old Damian Barreiro. "You go the Red Sox game to catch a good buzz, and then you head over to the finish line to see everyone cross."

"Now, it's a day of sadness and remembering."

While much of the region has since edged back to normal, a six-block area downtown remains a barricaded crime scene.

But this week an ailing Mayor Thomas Menino, who's been a fixture in office for nearly two decades, defiantly stood from his wheelchair to announce plans to reopen Bolyston Street.

"It's time to move this city forward," he said.

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