— BOSTON (AP) — It dawned chilly, clear and blue, a parsimonious but perfect serving of New England springtime that — because it came on the third Monday in April — unquestionably called for a celebration.
The kind of morning just right for an 11:05 a.m. first pitch at Fenway Park. A day to remind your kids about the heroes of the American Revolution before heading out to stake a place on the curb and cheer on modern-day heroes of the Marathon. A day, Bostonians say, when their city realizes the best of itself.
And then, in 10 seconds of fury and smoke, the joy founded upon 117 years of sweat and aspiration was stolen away.
When a pair of bombs exploded Monday near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing at least three people and injuring more than 140, it left a scene of shattered glass and severed limbs that terrorized this city. Spectators who moments before had been cheering family and friends were knocked to the ground. Blood stained the pavement. With reports that two more bombs had been found unexploded, Bostonians and visitors hunkered down in fear.
But to appreciate the totality of what Boston surrendered in those moments of horror requires understanding just how much the city had to lose. Other cities have, no doubt, experienced far more horrific tragedies. But few have had their sense of security ripped away at a moment of such singular exultation, on a day that captures an essential part of this city's soul.
Monday in Boston was Patriots' Day, a holiday unique to New England that brings the region's rich history alive with reenactments recalling the battles of Lexington and Concord that marked the beginning of the American Revolution. For the city's children, it means a day off from school as they begin Spring Break. For 23,000 runners from around the world, the day caps months spent preparing to test body and spirit. It is a day when a city feels like a village, when strangers offer high-fives and free food to runners they'll never see again.