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THE DARK SIDE CLOUDS EVERYTHING

on April 23, 2013 - 11:20pm

Patriot's Day in Massachusetts has great significance for the people living here.  It's a day full of ritual and tradition, starting with the re-enactment of the fight that signaled the start of the American Revolution, The Battle of Lexington.    I've always loved  this event.  Year in and year out, at 5:30 in the morning, the re-enactors capture that momentous event in American History: "The shot heard 'round the world."  This recognition of Lexington's position as the "Birthplace of Liberty" may be the reason we celebrate this day but for most people from the region it's only the beginning of our celebration. 

Photo by Frank D. Rich

People have been running the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day since 1897. It's the world's oldest annual marathon and a beloved Boston tradition.  It's one of the six World Major Marathons, but it very much runs through the heart of Boston, literally and on much deeper levels.  Since 1957 our Boston Red Sox have played a home game at Fenway Park on Patriot's Day.  Instead of starting at the typical afternoon gametime of 1:15 pm, this game starts much earlier, around 11 am so fans can leave Fenway after the game, walk down to the marathon route, and watch the runners finish their 26.2  miles. Two of our most cherrished activities become one each Patriot's Day.  Tradition is important to us here and this is one of our longest standing.  Patriot's Day is our Mardi Gras, our Carnivale.  It's a day that is uniquely ours.  A day when the world looks to our small city on the Northeast coast of America. 

The world looked to Boston once again on Patriot's Day 2013.   Instead of the typical video clips of exhausted runners crossing the finish line and being draped with silver polyethylene blankets, people around the world saw men and women with missing limbs ushered to safety by their neighbors after terrorists detonated two explosives at the finish line of the marathon. 

I was sitting right here at my desk at 2:50 pm on Patriot's Day, about 14 miles from the finish line when the bombs exploded.  Like many here I had the day off in observance of the holiday and I was about two paragraphs into my blog when the news first hit.  I kept the blog open, thinking I would get back to it soon enough and finish up.  Reports of fatalities came in, first it was two, then we learned one of the victims was only 8-years old.  Soon after we learned of a third person whose life was cut down by the terrorists.  It was when the names of those killed were announced:  Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi and young Martin Richards, that I deleted the blog entry I had begun.  I needed to step away from Star Wars for a bit and process what was happening.  

After several hours of watching the news I logged into Facebook and what I saw was overwhelming.  The news feeds for both my personal and Star Wars Autograph Collection pages were flooded with love and support for Boston and those affected by the bombings.  It took me several minutes to catch up on the posts that were published that day, and each one added to my strength and pride.  My pride in Boston.  My pride in America. My pride in being a citizen of the Earth.  My pride as a member of the Star Wars family.  Messages started to come in from friends around the globe.  These feelings did not over ride the other emotions I was experiencing, but they did help to take the edge off of them. 

Artwork by David Gremillion

Life moved on in the sense that the sun rose and set, but it felt as though Patrick McNulty had frozen time with his stopwatch.  I received my Christopher Lee autograph from Official Pix but my heart, mind and soul were 1,000 galaxies away.  I wasn't numb, but most of my senses were dulled.  While I was thankful things weren't worse and feeling blessed that those closest to me weren't hurt (especially those who were on the martahton route as runners, spectators or volunteers) I was also angry.  Very angry.

We recorded the second episode of the Star Wars Autograph Collection Podcast on Friday, April 19th.  I tried to put the week behind me and focus on the show and I hope when it is released in the next day or so I do not seem too distracted.  The truth of course is that I was distracted, but recording the show with four people who I greatly respect was a welcomed escape, even if I couldn't fully allow myself to be present.  

Shortly after we wrapped up recording for the night I received a message from one of my best friends telling me to put on the news.  A car had been stolen and someone taken hostage.  A young police officer killed.  A car chase and gun fight which seemed straight out of a Summer Hollywood blockbuster culminated in Watertown, Massachusetts, which borders my town of Waltham.  Before long we learned the assailants were the suspects in the marathon bombings.  I came back to life, the dullness was shaken away by pride.  One suspect dead, the other on the run.  And so began the manhunt for a terrorist five miles from  where my daughter sleeps.

At 3 am I finally decided I had to get some sleep and at 6:30 am my phone rang. My best friend, who is also the Vice President where I work, was on the other line.  He asked if I heard what was happening.  I told him I had, until 3 am at least.  His next words were simple, but powerful enough to get me up and out of bed in a hurry.  "Then  you know we are closed today." 

I put the news on and saw Waltham listed among the handful of towns that the Governor had asked to remain in their homes while the hunt for the terrorist continued.  Emails were coming in, including one from my daguther's school, which is in Watertown, saying they were closed for the day.  I let her know that she woudln't be going to school and in typically 5-year old fashion she yelled "Yay!  Can we go to the park?"  A good answer to that queston was no where to be found in the Daddy Handbook they gave me at the hospital the day she was born. 

Although there would be no park that day, I thought I could make the most of my unexpected day off by writing my blog, editing the podcast and getting it loaded on Libsyn.  Instead I spent the day alternating between the news and various Disney Jr. shows with my daughter.  Around dinner time it seemed the terrorist, who had become known as "Suspect Number 2" was no where to be found and the request to stay indoors was lifted.  "We're back to Monday" was a quote by someone involved in the search and I felt the dullness start to return.  For a moment I thought I could step away from the news and do something remotely productive.  Before I had time to change the channel word started to come in that the terrorist had been found, in a boat in someone's back yard.  He was surrounded and it was just a matter of time until he was caught, or he was dead like his brother. 

Finally he was caught, and to the surprise of many, captured alive and brought to a hospital in Boston.  The police, FBI, Homeland Security, First Responders and all the other heroes who put their life on the line to capture this terrorist started to make their way out of the city.  A long and dangerous day and night's work done, but a long road ahead of them.  The citizens of Watertown, who could now leave their homes again, lined their streets and cheered for them as they drove by, showing their appeciation for the men and women who risked all to keep them safe. Watching this unfold organically on the news gave me chills and my sense of pride overflowed.  It was unscripted and magical. Not everyone understood what this moment meant to us.  One reporter on the scene said "It almost has a parade feel to it, if that makes any sense."

It made perfect sense.

Photo by the Denverpost.com

The hunt was over and we more or less had closure.  We may come to learn that there were more people involved in the bombing but the two who dropped the backpacks containing the bombs that killed three people and injured over 170 others at the marathon, and killed a police officer in cold blood in his car were not going to be hurting anyone else ever again. Slowly the love I had seen for Boston started to make way for people complaining that the Boston Comic Con had been canceled and demanding their money be refunded.  Political agendas started to resurface.  People were faulting the government for asking us to stay indoors while they hunted a terrorist, saying they overstepped their authority.  For better or worse the world was returning to normal.  The love and positivity that had dominated Facebook and the internet over the last week was fading, and that was a sad thing to watch. 

Now there were emotions to deal with and tough decisions to make.  I had a trip to England coming in little more than a week to celebrate May the Fourth, just as I had last year.  The trip was all planned out, I would be staying with my good friend Paul, and attending Screen Con in North Shields, Dinner With the Stars II, Star Wars Fan Fun Day and Norwich.  I had just one problem:  I was afraid. 

I'm not someone who frightens easily.  Over the last 20 years I have worked with some of the most dangerous and violent patients in the Commonwealth of Massaschusetts  When I felt I needed more of a challenge I started bouncing at bars and nightclubs in Boston for extra money.  I've experienced more situations than I can remember where I could have just as easily ended up in the hospital (or worse) as going home at the end of my shift.  I've always had a healthy respect for people's ability to potentially hurt me in those situations, but didn't feel fear.  Now I am afraid. 

I am not afraid something bad might happen.  Something bad will happen. Right now I am afraid that something bad happens while I am on the other side of the world and can't protect my daughter. Can't put her to bed and tell her everything is going to be ok.  Can't make her laugh and see her smile.

For that reason I am canceling my May the Fourth trip to England this year. 

I've talked to many people about my thought process and they have all said the same thing:  "You can't let the terrorists win."  They are right, of course.  I am letting fear get the better of me, so I've allowed them to win.  I'm not proud of it and wish I was stronger in my convictions and could jump on the plane at Logan Airport and enjoy the shows with my friends, interviewing actors and adding dozens of autographs to my collection.  But you see my daughter is my life, my entire world, and I know every minute I was away I would feel overwhelmed with guilt and the worry that something might happen and I was not there.  It's just too soon. That might make me a coward, but I am at peace with my decision.

This in no way means Star Wars Autograph Collection is slowing down, quite to opposite actually.  I'm hard at work editing the second episode of the podcast while preparing for the third episode.  I have added another show to my May lineup and will now be attending Motor City Comic Con, Fun Expo in Welland, Ontario and the Southcoast Toy and Comic Expo.  Three shows, two countries, in three days and I won't be more than a half day's drive from my daughter.

As I've said, May the Fourth is just too soon for me to travel so far from home.  July, on the to other hand, is far enough away for me to be comfortable traveling.  Therefore it is wilth great pleasure I officially announce Star Wars Autograph Collection is going to Germany for Star Wars Celebration Europe II

Boston Strong.  Boston Proud.