by Christine Smith
Two weeks ago on April 15, 2013, the city of Boston became the center of a locally-grown terrorist attack that involved two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The attack wounded hundreds of runners and spectators and killed three observers: a Boston University graduate student, an eight-year-old boy, and a local restaurant manager. Of the victims, over a dozen have had at least one limb amputated. In just those few minutes of chaos, what was previously a largely local sporting event morphed into a reason to highlight its international significance and to put aside political and ideological tensions to rally behind the United States.
On the surface, the Boston Marathon may primarily appear to be a domestic event. After all, while the rest of the country and world goes about their daily lives, the entire city of Boston and state of Massachusetts shut down for Patriots’ Day, also known as Marathon Monday. At first glance, the race may consequently appear to many as merely an excuse to party with friends and to take a day off from work or school. In actuality, the Boston Marathon means significantly more; it symbolizes a day for the residents of Boston and Massachusetts to unite as New Englanders and to revitalize their already strong sense of regional pride. The race, however, also acts as a day for the international community to come together over a shared interest: running.
As a result of its humble origins, the Boston Marathon has always been connected to the international community. Established in 1897 by U.S. Olympic Team Manager John Graham after watching and training athletes for the Olympic Marathon, the Boston Marathon has continued to include athletes from all over the world. Over 95 countries were represented in this year’s race alone, including 10 African and 15 Asian nations. The Boston Marathon bombings were not merely an attack against the United States, but rather an attack against 95 states of varying political, religious, economic, and ideological backgrounds.
Many runners opted to run on behalf of an international charity, further reflecting their deeper commitment to making a positive impact globally. Most of the 35 charities sponsoring the race are connected to either the Greater Boston area or to the United States, but several represent global partners, including the Alzheimer’s Association, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. As a result, over $133 million in donations have been given since the creation of the Boston Marathon Official Charity Program in 1989 to charities whose issues are just as important beyond American borders as they are within.
Additionally, by occurring annually on Patriots’ Day, the Boston Marathon brings attention to the anniversary of the start of the Revolutionary War: a war that pitted the Thirteen Colonies, France, Spain, and the Netherlands against Great Britain in an effort to diminish Great Britain’s global power and to give the United States its independence. Consequently, the Boston Marathon acts as a reminder to both the U.S. and the world that the currently prosperous country was once a mere colony of the British Empire that lacked its own independent international voice.
Perhaps it is not surprising then, that the international community has rallied behind Boston and the United States in light of the recent Boston Marathon bombings. After all, many American allies regularly fall victim to terrorist attacks and thus understand the physical and emotional trauma New Englanders are currently experiencing. Even some countries, like Syria, whose relationships with the United States recently have been considerably strained as a result of the issuing of strong criticism of Washington and U.S. foreign policy, have reached out through social media to suffering New Englanders to express their condolences. “Boston Strong,” therefore, means more than the unification of a city; “Boston Strong” represents the world’s commitment to putting aside divisive differences to work together to help all innocent participants and spectators impacted by the Boston Marathon bombings.
Facts and figures obtained from The Boston Athletic Association, The New York Times, and CNN.
Christine Smith recently received her B.A. in Political Science and two minors in African Studies and Anthropology from Boston University. She is currently a first year M.A. in African Studies student at UCLA focusing on human rights issues in East Africa and plans to pursue a second M.S. in Print Journalism. She is also an editor with The Generation.