BOSTON — Meet at the mailbox.
That’s all the Manzi family of North Andover needed to know when they were going to see the Boston Marathon.
“It was 2008 and I was with a bunch of my friends, looking to get something to eat and find a good area on Boylston Street to watch my dad (Al Manzi) finish his first marathon,” recalled Alyssa Manzi Ritter, who lives in Newburyport with her husband and two small children.
“The restaurant was called ‘Vox’ (now it’s “The Forum”) and the mailbox was out in front near the street,” she said. “We saw him and went crazy cheering right there at the mailbox ... It ended up being such a great spot, our family went back there every year to see my dad ... at the mailbox.”
Except last year.
Last year, there were a string of circumstances that kept the Manzis away. His son Al III’s two sons were sick. His oldest daughter, Lauren, was at a wedding in Mexico. And it probably would have been too much for Alyssa to bring her two kids, Brock (almost 2) and Isla (10 months old).
“I told them all to forget it and just meet me at the Boston Athletic Club, where we have a small party afterward,” said Al. “It would just be too hectic.”
When hell broke loose at last year’s Boston Marathon, Al, 61, was running on Commonwealth Avenue, less than a mile away from the finish line. He ended up calling his wife to let her know he was fine.
It wasn’t until later that night that the Manzi’s realized that the second bombing’s connection to their family, right next to the mailbox where the Richard family of Dorchester stood. Eight-year-old Martin Richard died and his 7-year-old sister, Jane, lost her leg.