When I was 16 years old, about a week or two after the planes crashed into the twin towers in 2001, I went to a Red Sox game with my father and my little brother. My father refused to give the tickets away, even though the Sox weren't playing well and fear was high.
On Yawkey Way, the famous street outside of Fenway Park, I watched Massholes in Nomar jerseys, chomping down Italian sausages and washing them down with wicked cold beers. It just seemed so easy, then, for a man wearing a vest filled with explosives to blow us all to smithereens. That day, I had never seen Fenway so empty or heard such a small amount of cursing. During the third inning, my father got up to go to the bathroom, and he whispered to me: “If anything happens, run with your brother onto the field. Everyone will be running the opposite direction.”
Last Monday, when the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, it was the realization of a terror I had expected, really, since 2002. But this time, I was so far away from my hometown in Worcester County, living in Los Angeles. And I wanted to know how Bostonians were dealing with the recent events. I wanted to feel a part of my community. And I wanted to know if anything has changed.
So on Sunday, I went down to Sonny McLean's Irish Pub — a Boston bar — in Santa Monica for the Rally for Boston. It was a party. When I walked into the bar, it was as if I had been transported back to the East Coast: The Sox game was on almost every television, a band was leading the bar through Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, and the bartenders were passing out beers and shots of whiskey as if it was the end of prohibition.
“It's a big signal out to the world,” said Zach Servideo, one of the three organizers of the event. “When evil strikes, good people strike back even harder.” Servideo recently moved to L.A. from Boston. He watched the Boston Marathon on television, and decided that he just needed to do something that would focus on the positive. Then the idea for the event started, according to Servideo, with one Facebook message, and people from all over the country began to help.
On Sunday, Servideo and the other organizers, including his brother, auctioned off signed Wes Welker jerseys and other New England sports paraphernalia with the help of the charity organized by the Massachusetts punk band Dropkick Murphys, The Claddagh Fund, to raise money for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. All of the door was also donated to the charity.
So how were transplanted Massholes living in Los Angeles processing the most recent terrorist attack since 9/11?
“I wanted to be home,” said Craig Sheppard. He had an America flag draped over his neck and a beer in his hand. “I'm from Stoneham, Mass, and we had this big rally back home. One of my neighbors got his leg blown off. He was standing next to his brother.”
According to the Boston Globe, both brothers from Stoneham lost a leg during the explosion. Sheppard talked about how he felt helpless, being so far away from his hometown, but that day at Sonny McLean's, he said he felt at home — a part of a larger community for the first time in his L.A. life.
On stage, Neal McDonough, the actor from Band of Brothers and a native of Dorchester, played the harmonica with the San Diego band The Fooks. In between songs, he was screaming out to the crowd: “Give it up for Dorchester,” “Who likes to get shitfaced?” and “This is for Boston.”
Outside of the bar, Gary Carlo, a retired NYPD officer, was wearing a New York Yankees hat. I asked him what was the big idea wearing the enemy's colors, and he said: “It wasn't just Boston that was attacked; it was America.”
Back in 2001, Carlo lost several friends during the attacks in New York City. He has “NYPD” tattooed on his bicep, and the Boston Marathon bombings brought up similar emotions as 9/11. I asked him if he felt that people were angry. He said, “Some people get angry. Or they get more resolve in fighting this. Anger only takes you so far. Anger can wake you up.”
“It's been a rough week,” said the owner of Sonny McLean's, Joanie O'Hara. “People were here on Monday, and it was dark and somber. All you could hear was silence.” O'Hara is originally from Nova Scotia, and she says that Monday was one of the first times in the bar's history that a news station was on the television. “But today is a celebration,” said O'Hara. “Making life better. This is part of the healing.”
But I couldn't help but wonder: If this was a celebration, well, what the hell were we celebrating?
After 9/11, we went to war; hatred was spewed towards Islam; we opened the prison at Guantanamo Bay; people bought toilet paper with imprints of Osama Bin Laden's face and wiped their asses with glee; and some cheered and celebrated in the streets when he was killed. So how were things different now? How have we changed? Were we just celebrating that the terrorists had been captured?
There is a great line in the fantastic Boston movie The Town when Blake Lively's character is talking to Ben Affleck. She's smoking a cigarette, and she says, “We smoked it to the filter, right?” Well, that line sums up the feeling at Sonny McLean's on Sunday afternoon. The events were horrible and frightening at the Boston Marathon, but all the way out in Los Angeles, we're reminded life is short. We're reminded to live in the moment. And we're reminded that terrorist attacks are now a part of our collective consciousness. This probably won't be the last. And that shock, maybe, is wearing off, and instead of responding with chest-bumping warmongering, maybe responding like a bunch of Bostonians, feeling at home thousands of miles away, and dancing a jig while spilling beer all over someone's shoes is the best option.
“It's like an Irish wake,” said lead singer of The Fooks after a set of San Diego's finest Irish noise. “It makes you forget tragedy for a moment. Reminds you there is something joyful in life. Because really when you're mourning, you're mourning for your own loss.”
For donations go to www.fundraise.com/rallyforboston.