Monday’s running of the Boston Marathon was a celebration of the American spirit, a statement of defiance directed at those who wish us ill. The marathon has always been connected with Patriots Day, the holiday that marks the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the birth of our nation. Rarely has the connection been so strongly felt as this year.
Runners, organizers and spectators alike were determined to reclaim the race from the specter of terrorism that marred last year’s marathon. The goal was achieved in spectacular fashion.
Perhaps no contrast could be greater than that between this year’s men’s race winner, the triumphantly American Meb Keflezighi, and the wretched Tsarnaev brothers, accused of planting the bombs that killed three and injured 260 last year. Both the Keflezighi and Tsarnaev families came to the United States from war-torn nations, the former from Eritrea, the latter from Chechnya. The Keflezighi family moved to San Diego when Meb was 12. He went on to a career as a track star at UCLA and won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics. After the Tsarnaevs moved to Cambridge, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar embraced radical Muslim politics and nurtured a seething hatred of the country that welcomed them.
Keflezighi was injured and unable to race in last year’s Boston Marathon. He was a spectator on the sidelines when the Tsarnaevs’ bombs exploded. As he recalled for the press after the race, thoughts of the victims and the determination to be “Boston Strong” kept him going as he tired. Written on his racer’s bib were the names of the four victims of last year’s terror: Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell and Sean Collier, the MIT police officer killed by the Tsarnaevs three days later.
Keflezighi indeed proved to be “Boston Strong.” He became the first American to win the race since 1983 and at 38 is the oldest men’s winner since 1931.