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Sports is so often the perfect metaphor. Back when 9-11 happened, it was baseball. This week, it’s baseball and hockey and running, too.
In Boston Wednesday night, as the Boston Bruins hockey game was about to start, Rene Rancourt began to sing the National Anthem, as he always does for the Bruins. He later told boston.com that he had been afraid he would break down, after the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon two days earlier. At the Bruins’ suggestion, he put down his microphone and let the crowd take over.
Oh, my, did they ever. The rendition (which can be viewed on the Internet) was stirring and heartfelt.
It followed the day when, in New York, baseball’s Yankees played “Sweet Caroline,” a song always played at Boston’s Fenway Park during the eighth inning. The rivalry between the Yankees and Boston’s Red Sox is ferocious. But Red Sox or Yankees, White Sox or Cubs, we are all Americans. Americans know when it is time to set aside our beloved grudges to comfort each other. After 9-11, Red Sox fans gave the visiting Yankees a standing ovation.
We are a crabby people sometimes, us Americans. But we do not take kindly to critics telling us we can’t be us.
President Obama rightly said in Boston Thursday that Americans’ and Bostonians’ “resolve is the greatest rebuke ... We finish the race, and we do that because of who we are. And that’s what ... these small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build, and think somehow that makes them important — that’s what they don’t understand.”
We understand it, though.
Finishing the race is so important that — amid the pathos and blood, three people dead and others with their limbs blown off — runners understood other runners’ dismay at not being able to finish the event for which many had trained for months or maybe even years.
So it was that, when Sitka runner Brent Cunningham, who had finished the race, came upon runner Laura Wellington of Cambridge, Mass., he asked whether she had finished the race.
According to The Associated Press’ telling of a story reported by Anchorage’s KTUU-TV, she had not been able to finish; the bombs went off shortly before she reached the race’s end, so she was diverted and couldn’t cross the finish line.
Cunningham, who had crossed the line five minutes before the blasts and received a finisher’s medal for doing so, took it off his own neck and placed it around Wellington’s, telling her, “You are a finisher in my book.” Then the Cunninghams melted back into the crowd, leaving her to marvel at the kindness of strangers at such a time. She later was able to figure out who they were after making a plea on her Facebook page.
Giving her the medal was a natural thing, an instinctive response, of wanting to do something to help someone amid “so much anguish,” the AP reported Cunningham said.
An American thing. How fitting that a Southeast Alaskan was there to do it on all of our behalf.
Like the rest of America, and a whole world full of good people, we are with Boston. And Boston will be just fine.