IN MEMORY: Thomas Menino, Personification Of ‘Boston Strong’

Thomas Menino. Source: Llouj (Own work). Wikipedia Commons.

Thomas Menino. Source: Llouj. (Own work.) Wikimedia Commons.

On April 13, 2013, a 70-year-old common man named Tom Menino had surgery. The procedure entailed the “placement of a plate and screws to repair the spiral fracture of [his] right fibula.” The break had occurred near the ankle.

Two days later, on April 15, Menino was still in the hospital. Sometime shortly after 2:49 p.m. on that date, he checked himself out.

You see, Tom Menino, the common man who sometimes mangled the English language and spent plenty of time with immigrants and others who could do the same, was the mayor of Boston. And an unknown person or persons had just detonated two bombs near the finish line of the world-famous Boston Marathon. Three people enjoying their freedom were killed. An estimated 264 were wounded, some gruesomely. A police officer who later encountered the suspects in Cambridge also would die. Other police officers engaged them in a ferocious gun battle on the streets of Greater Boston. The suspects lobbed Improvised Explosive Devices at the cops.

All Americans of a certain age will remember where they were and what they were doing when terrorists turned Beantown into a war zone on Patriot’s Day. I was researching and reporting on the Profitable Sunrise HYIP scheme, when the first bulletins hit the airwaves and the Internet.

Barely familiar with the mayor, I did not know at first that he had been in the hospital and had been experiencing great pain; I remember wondering why he was in a wheelchair. For many Americans, the aftermath of the bombings provided their first introduction to Tom Menino. Prior to today, his name had appeared on the PP Blog only once — through a repeated Tweet. “We got him.”

The “him” was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The date was April 19, 2013.

As the AP, via Fox News, reminded America yesterday: “At an interfaith service three days after the bombings, Menino, in a symbolic act of personal defiance, painfully pulled himself to his feet from his wheelchair to declare that no act of violence could break Boston’s spirit.”

The mayor was the personification of “Boston strong,” a phrase in use again yesterday in the highest of places:

On April 3, 2014, the PP Blog published an editorial titled, “Uproar In TelexFree’s Billion-Dollar Broom Closet.”

The Red Sox with the President on April 1. 2014. Source: White House video.

The Red Sox with the President on April 1, 2014. Source: White House video.

The collapse of TelexFree into a pile of alleged Ponzi- and pyramid rubble would come 10 days later, with potentially hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t speak perfect English as the victims. The April 3 editorial recounted how distressed TelexFree affiliates had wedged themselves into the purported “opportunity’s” office in Marborough, Mass., on April 1. On that very day, the Boston Red Sox had been invited to the White House to receive accolades from the President of the United States for winning the 2013 World Series. The Blog published a screen shot of the team from the ceremony’s happiest moment.

But there also were serious moments, such as when President Obama recalled how Boston and the nation felt during the terrible hours of the marathon bombing and all that ensued.

Today we’d like to publish some of the words spoken by the President on that day (italics added):

Obviously, all the wins were sweet for Red Sox fans, but I think for the nation as a whole there was something about this particular squad that was special and will go down in history — not just not just because they went from worst to first, but because they symbolized the grit and the resilience of America’s — one of America’s iconic cities during one of its most difficult moments.

Nearly one year ago, hundreds of thousands gathered on a beautiful spring day to run and cheer the historic Boston Marathon.  But a senseless act of terror turned celebration into chaos, and joy into anguish.  Four young people lost their lives.  Hundreds were injured.  The city was rocked.  But under the guiding hand of somebody who I consider one of the finest public servants that America has known, Mayor Tom Menino of Boston, who is here today, and his lovely wife.

Boston stood resolute and unbowed and unbroken.  And as the smoke cleared, we gained inspiration from the injured who gamely tackled their recovery — those who are running and walking again, including the young woman who has returned to professional dancing with a prosthetic leg.  And we took heart from the first responders who put their lives at risk and bravely ran toward danger — people like Officer Richard Donahue of the MBTA Transit Police, who was shot and nearly killed that night.  After months of rehab, Richard is walking again and keeping up with his 18-month-old son, and we’re so proud to have Richard here today.

Here is another frame from that April 1 video. The baseball executives and players are clapping. What you can’t see in the frame is the recipient of the applause. It is Tom Menino, who, like New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Sept. 11, 2001, suddenly had become America’s mayor.

Red Sox executives and players applaud Mayor Menino at the White House. Source: White House video.

Red Sox executives and players applaud Mayor Menino at the White House on April 1, 2014. Source: White House video.

A statement yesterday by the President of the United States (italics added):

Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Tom Menino. Bold, big-hearted, and Boston strong, Tom was the embodiment of the city he loved and led for more than two decades.  As Boston’s longest-serving mayor, Tom helped make his hometown the vibrant, welcoming, world-class place it is today.  His legacy lives on in every neighborhood he helped revitalize, every school he helped turn around, and every community he helped make a safer, better place to live.  I had a chance to speak with Tom’s wife, Angela, yesterday, and today our thoughts and prayers are with her, with the entire Menino family, and with the people of Boston who Tom loved so much, and who loved him in return.

A statement yesterday by Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States (italics added):

Jill and I were saddened to hear of the passing of our good friend, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Tommy was our friend for a long, long time, and he was without a doubt one of the finest Mayors this nation has ever seen. His heart was always as big as the city he loved. And he was, to his core, the very definition of Boston Strong. Unyielding. Absolutely committed.

The poet R. G. Ingersoll could have been describing Tommy when he wrote:

“When the will defies fear;
When duty throws the gauntlet down to fate;
When honor scorns compromise with death – – this is heroism!”
In the days following the Boston Marathon bombing Tommy was heroic. He was calm in the face of uncertainty, and resolute as the whole world watched.

Even as he should have been in bed, Tommy stood tall, marching through the streets of Boston with a Louisville Slugger for a walking stick. He was determined to protect the people of his city, whether from high profile tragedies like the bombing or the everyday tragedies of gun violence as a leading member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

It was an honor to work with Tommy on the investments that improved Boston’s neighborhoods, schools, housing and infrastructure. The “Menino Way” is evident in every park, every school, and every corner of Boston that emerged safer, cleaner, and stronger than before.

His legacy will live on in the city he loved, and in the example he set for public servants everywhere.

Boston’s first Italian-American Mayor earned what my mother always said was the highest compliment we Irish can give: He was a good man.

All of America is proud of you, Mr. Mayor, a common man of uncommon qualities, the Boston Strong-est of them all.

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2 Responses to “IN MEMORY: Thomas Menino, Personification Of ‘Boston Strong’”

  1. Nice column and a fine farewell to a good man. Thank you for writing this post.

    -V M

  2. val macewan: Nice column and a fine farewell to a good man. Thank you for writing this post.

    You’re welcome, val. And thank you for the kind words.