On April 19, 2013, an entire city was asked to “shelter in place” while police sought the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombings, and Captain America was right there with everyone as they watched and waited. In this case, Captain America was a 14-year-old kid named Reuben who was in town for the Boston Comic-Con, scheduled to take place just a block away from where the bombs had been detonated at the finish line on Boylston Street. The convention was postponed shortly after the “shelter in place” order was given, but he and his father chose to check into their Kenmore Square hotel nonetheless.
It was a moment in history; a day that people would remember where they were and what they were doing years later. When his father asked if he wanted to cancel the weekend, young Reuben chose to be present for it rather that be afraid. It was a sentiment that was echoed across a city holding its breath. The entire city was suffering extended shock since that Monday when the bombs went off. It was an atmosphere of siege, even before the order kept people in Boston stuck in their homes. Nobody knew if there were more bombings to come, or even what had motivated the attack. Nonetheless, walking in the real world meant making a conscious decision not to show fear while doing so. Reuben, along with the city, was being given a chance to decide what kind of person he wanted to grow into. In light of the Boston Marathon bombings, he had decided that he wanted to be Captain America. It was his manifestation of the “Boston Strong” spirit.
Reports began coming out on Friday morning that the suspects had been identified, that one of them may be dead, that an unknown number were armed and still loose, and that an intensive search was underway. Locked in their homes, or hotels, an entire city was glued to the television. Early afternoon, the news came that even the Boston Red Sox game would be postponed. Strangely enough, while sheltering in place was a statewide inconvenience, the loss of the Sox game really made people mad.
When the announcement came around 6 p.m. that the order was being lifted, despite not having caught the second suspect, people took to the streets quickly. Most businesses had closed, and dinner for most in Kenmore Square meant the 7-11 store. There were no other options. Captain America, hood and all, grabbed a burrito and walked down to Boylston Street. Along the way, hand-written signs proclaiming the strength of city and citizens of Boston adorned mailboxes and storefronts. Courage and pride were plastered on every corner. Everyone on the street stopped to get a picture with or a “high-five” from Captain America.
Everything on Boylston Street was blocked off, but people were gathering at the barricades. There were signs, and flowers, and tokens of all kinds scattered everywhere. People were continuing to bring more. They were drawing on the sidewalks with chalk, messages of love, support, sympathy, and defiance all at the same time. Everyone was quiet, subdued by the events of the day, but there was strength in every smile. There was not an ounce of defeat to be found, and not even a hint of the everyday conflicts that are common to every city street in the world. For a time, unity reigned completely in Boston.
“Hey, Captain America,” a voice called out as Reuben was taking pictures of the monuments, “they got him! They have the guy cornered!” There was no need to explain who.
Back at the hotel, not long after, the drama surrounding the capture of the second coward played out on the television. It dragged out for a while, but once it was over there was no missing the moment. The streets were almost immediately filled with cheering crowds. Horns were honking, and chaotic celebration defined the moment. The choice to stay and be there when the people of Boston stopped sheltering and took back their city was immediately rewarded. In that moment, they were all Captain America.
The Red Sox game was played Sunday night. The Friday night game had originally been slated as “law enforcement appreciation” night, and there were new members of that profession to appreciate after Friday. Officer Sean Collier, who lost his life on Friday, was remembered along with the others. The celebration was tempered by the fresh grief, but there was real celebration as a part of the appreciation. The city had won a victory. Half of section 37 in the bleachers at Fenway Park that night left with pictures taken beside Captain America. For those not present, it might be difficult to understand, but the moment was a complete one. There was joy and celebration right along with the sadness of loss. There was strength, support, and there were the Boston Red Sox. The Boston Marathon bombings took their toll on the people of a city, but a 14 year-old boy helped some of them to capture the spirit of Captain America; of Boston Strong.
By Jim Malone