Illustration by Nicole Rifkin
“This is our f–king city.”
Take a trip into Boston and you’ll see that even five years later, those five words are inescapable. In the city they’ve become everything from a rallying cry to a T-shirt sold around Fenway after Red Sox games to something screamed in a Boston University dorm room after beating someone in FIFA. They’ve become forever intertwined with one of the region’s biggest sporting legends: David Ortiz.
Ortiz had already cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players in Red Sox history. But that speech took Big Papi’s legend to another level, to that of city icon, with no disclaimer that he’s an athlete.
“It’s right at the top of the defining moments that establish David as the most important player in our history,” says Sam Kennedy, Red Sox team president. “I say that with all due respect to all of the other great players, Hall of Famers, other perhaps more talented baseball players, whether you’re talking about Ted Williams or Carl Yastrzemski. The list goes on and on. What he did for the city that day helped lift the spirits when we needed it most.”
All it took was five words.
Marathon Monday, April 15, 2013
It had already been a particularly great Marathon Monday, with a walk-off Mike Napoli double off the Green Monster to clinch a Red Sox victory after an 11:05 a.m. start. The game ended at 2:10 p.m., and with a road trip to Cleveland scheduled, the Red Sox got on the bus to head to Logan International Airport. They had started the season without Ortiz, who was still recovering in Triple-A Pawtucket in Rhode Island from an Achilles tendon injury that ended his 2012 season.
Charles Steinberg (former senior adviser to president Larry Lucchino, current president of Pawtucket Red Sox): Monday, April 15, 2013, was an extraordinarily beautiful day. You don’t know what you’re going to get on Patriots’ Day in Boston. It has the full range of weather options. This day was particularly gorgeous.
Kennedy (former Red Sox COO, current Red Sox president and CEO): It’s like a national holiday in Boston that we celebrate. It’s my favorite day of the year going back to middle school and high school. You’d always try to go to the Red Sox game if you could find the ticket and then walk out and go enjoy the marathon.
Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Shane Victorino (Red Sox outfielder, 2013-2015): You don’t base a schedule around another event. … No, in this situation, it’s the city of Boston. It’s the marathon. It’s bigger than the Red Sox.
At 2:49 p.m., just 39 minutes after the Red Sox’s 3-2 walk-off victory, the first bomb at the finish line exploded. Twelve seconds later, the second went off. The terrorist attack killed three and injured at least 264, including 17 people who lost limbs.
Jonny Gomes (Red Sox outfielder, 2013-2014): We actually thought, when we were in the clubhouse, that a transformer blew up—a loud bang, nothing to worry about. But then by the time we got on the bus, which wasn’t too much longer after, obviously social media and then the graphic pictures started to come out and it got real—real quick.
Ortiz (Red Sox designated hitter, 2003-2016): I was getting ready to play for Pawtucket, and then all of a sudden, the crazy stuff happened. When you see people going down like that, it was like, What in the world is going on? Who in the hell would come out with ideas to hurt people while trying to raise money to help people?
Gomes: We’re going to the airport. We’re getting passed on the other side of these fleets after fleets of fire trucks, police cars, ambulances going into town. That was probably the eeriest feeling of, s–t’s going down right here.
Jack McCormick (longtime Red Sox traveling secretary): It took us about 45 minutes, an hour, to get out of there because they had a ground hold at Logan that day, thinking that someone might try to escape through the airport.
Boston Strong, Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The Red Sox get to Cleveland, where they hold a team dinner. Twenty-three of the 25 players attend, more than on a typical road trip. At 6:33 a.m. the day after the bombings, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks tweets, “I can’t wait to put on my jersey today… I get to play for the strongest city out there. #BostonStrong.” The hashtag immediately becomes the city’s rallying cry.
Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Will Middlebrooks (Red Sox third baseman, 2012-2014): As far as the tweet with #BostonStrong, athletes in Boston have a platform. Whether they like you, love you or despise you, they read, they listen, they ingest every bit of what you say. I had zero intention to think of something that would catch on like that. I just tweeted it from my heart, something I truly felt.
Gomes: Boston Strong was gaining steam. We thought that we should put it on a jersey and put 617, the Boston area code, underneath it. Tommy [McLaughlin], our clubhouse guy, just took it and ran with it. Within no time, he had that jersey sewn up and ready to rock.
Victorino: You saw the Boston Strong being posted all over the place on social media. It became the clause or hashtag that kept that city molded together.
Back home, Ortiz continued his rehab while Boston went on lockdown in search of the bombers.
Ortiz: It was my first year starting on the DL. The team was traveling. I was home and rehabbing with the Triple-A team in Pawtucket. Everything went down when the team was on the road and I was at home.
Kennedy: The streets were literally empty because we weren’t supposed to be on the roads. Fenway is such a high-profile, important landmark. Charlie Cellucci, the head of security, was at 4 Yawkey Way. He was standing there with his gun, not drawn, but on a belt clip. He was defending the ballpark with the rest of our guards.
The Red Sox returned from Cleveland on Friday morning, scheduled to play the Kansas City Royals that night.
John Carter (director of Red Sox productions): While we’re trying to prepare for how we’re going to honor, at the time, the three victims, fatal victims, and