BOSTON — The air was festive; the people, jovial.

Legions of revelers lined the sidewalks, filled the doorways and huddled in empty lots and parks, intent on celebrating a sporting event that had united an already tightly knit city.

Some stepped on or bumped into one another unintentionally while attempting to procure the best possible vantage point from which to observe. Others stepped on each other intentionally — climbing to sit on a friend’s or parent’s shoulders — with the same goal in mind.

Everyone wanted to see Big Papi David Ortiz, World Series MVP, and his battery of bearded brothers, the Boston Red Sox.

This was Boylston Street. This was Boston. This was more like it.

*****

Less than seven months ago, a pair of misguided young men terrorized a city, state and a nation when they set off explosives during another mass gathering of sporting enthusiasts — near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, in the street in front of the Boston Public Library.

The tragedy, and the ensuing manhunt, cast a deep pallor over a proud city.

That stretch of city was a somber place. Walking near the finish line evoked emotions from the hardiest of people. When officials reopened the public way, cars filled the road, and people returned to the sidewalks.

But there was a somber reverence. Pedestrians spoke in hushed tones, automobiles — those that needed to — drove by slowly, slaloming around still-stunned citizens who weren’t quite sure how to pay homage to those who had been wounded, those who had died or those who had rushed to their aid.

A makeshift memorial remained in place in Copley Square, and hundreds of people filtered in and out of the pavilion, some laying down flowers and stuffed furry critters in memory of those who’d died. Shoes from runners still hung from the metal partitions that had been set up there originally to keep throngs of people from the finish area.

*****

A short walk from the site of the carnage stands Fenway Park, home of the beloved Red Sox and adopted home for scores of baseball fans throughout New England and beyond.

The Red Sox played ball on that fateful day, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 in the team’s traditional Labor Day morning game. They played the next three days in a row, as well, on the road in Cleveland.

After weather forced the team to postpone its first game back in Boston, the Red Sox held their “homecoming” on a spectacular Saturday afternoon. There, at Fenway Park, on that day, Ortiz added to his storied history with the Red Sox, and unwittingly foreshadowed the outcome of the 2013 World Series, taking the microphone during a pregame ceremony to honor the area’s first responders and the bombing victims. After thanking the mayor, the governor and others in attendance, he whipped the crowd into a frenzy with one sentence.

“This is our —-ing city,” Ortiz said, “And nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”

*****

The city stayed strong. Some businesses chose to rebuild. Others remodeled. People went on with their lives. And for the majority of those in Boston, that meant going back to supporting the Sox, who had fallen from grace the year before with a last-place finish.

Buoyed in part by that renewed fan-base fervor, the Red Sox surpassed all expectations this season and not only made the playoffs, but stomped all comers on their way to a third crown in 10 seasons.

*****

The bounce returned to Boylston Street.

The party that was supposed to happen surrounding and following the Boston Marathon took place tenfold Saturday. Masses of humanity crowded every nook and cranny of the available sidewalk space, returning spunk and energy to an area that hadn’t seen a mass gathering of that magnitude in nearly seven months.

Bands played, music blared. Low murmurs and somber speak turned to hooting and hollering. Horns blared, again and again. People shouted, screamed and cheered, many times with no provocation.

“Let’s go, Red Sox!”

As the city’s famed fleet of Duck Boats turned the corner and rumbled past Hynes Convention Center, each person’s neck seemed to grow, and many contorted themselves in an attempt to be the first within 4 square feet to catch a glimpse of Big Papi. Or Jon Lester. Or Jonny Gomes. Or the World Series trophy.

Or all of the above.

Camera shutters clicked into overdrive, squeals of delight echoed off storefronts, and the giddy laughter of children and their parents sharing a special moment was pervasive.

Moments like that permeated the parade route, but they were extra-special here.

So special, in fact, that Ortiz hopped off his Duck Boat and, with an escort of security personnel, completed what so many could not in April. He ran the final three blocks of the Boston Marathon route, and crossed the finish line.

From tragedy to triumph, this was Boylston Street.

This was Boston.

And this was definitely more like it.


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