A Day for Patriots: The Bombs Heard Round the World 1 Year Later, the Shot Heard Round the World 239 Years Later
That memory may
their deed redeem/When, like our sires, our sons are gone/Spirit, that made
those heroes dare/To die, and leave their children free/Bid Time and Nature
gently spare/The shaft we raise to them and thee
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Concord Hymn”
Not everyone celebrates Patriots’ Day
Massachusetts, to include its secessionist Eastern
District (now calling itself Maine), marks the third Monday of April with an
official holiday. Elsewhere, Patriots’ Day serves as an official curiosity. At
college, a New Yorker reacted to the foreign holiday with envy. He declared
that the Empire State should rally behind the Giants with a public holiday,
too, but sadly theorized that they wouldn’t because Jets and Bills fans might
The misunderstanding of Patriots’ Day as a sports
holiday isn’t far off. In the early 1980s, I cheered in vain from the grass in Chestnut Hill for Bill Rogers to capture a fifth marathon crown but watched
Toshihiko Seiko and Alberto Salazar win instead. I got my picture in my hometown
newspaper at seven performing a Bill Rogers imitation running a Patriots’ Day
5K. And later, upon landing a job at Fenway Park, I eagerly anticipated the unusual
annual a.m. game that allowed a doubleheader of baseball and marathon watching
all within a few blocks. Until Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, faux champion Rosie
Ruiz served as the closest thing to a villain that the Boston Marathon knew. But
Patriots’ Day—the occasion for the world’s oldest annual marathon—has always
had its villains.
More so than a spring sports holiday, the third
Monday in April celebrates heroes.
Jason Russell proved an unlikely hero 239 years ago.
Russell, living less than a mile from the house where I grew up in Arlington, and
less than five miles from the one that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had called
home in Cambridge, pivoted from farmer to patriot in just a few minutes that April.
Rather than turn away his fellow Americans, he allowed them to use his home as a
fortress to shield Minutemen planning to ambush the British retreating from
Lexington. He could have taken offered shelter away from the fighting. But he
stayed near the sound of the guns. “An Englishman’s home is his castle,” he
reasoned. Alas, the ambushers became the ambushed. The British shot and bayonetted
the 59-year-old to death at the door of his “castle.” His friends fell slaughtered
in a basement blood pool. Jason Russell’s home still stands. The holes
attesting to the fighting remain, too.
One year ago today, Carlos Arredondo,
unlike Jason Russell, didn’t benefit from a Paul Revere warning him to prepare.
Arredondo had made a Patriot’s Day tradition of trotting the boots of his
patriot son, a Marine lance corporal who fell in Iraq on his father’s birthday,
across the finish line in Copley Square. Last April 15, the cowboy-hatted immigrant passed out
American flags at the event almost a decade after he destroyed the Marine van
bearing the bearers of the bad news. And then the boom. Rather than bolt from
the blast, he rushed to put out the fire on a flailing Jeff Bauman,
applied pressure to stop the bleeding, and helped extract him from the danger
reflected, “I thought of what my son went through in Iraq.” Like Jason
Russell, another fiftysomething with no business in a war zone, Arredondo
refused to be a bystander on Patriot’s Day. And because of it, Jeff Bauman
still stands, though on artificial limbs. His wounds, like the holes in Jason
Russell’s House, remain to tell a story.
On the last Patriots’ Day, like the first,
anti-Americans took exception to the patriotism. The Tsarnaevs had much to be
grateful for in America. They had received upwards of six-figures worth of welfare,
enjoying Section 8 housing, EBT cards, and cash. Dzhokhar received a $2,500
“City Scholarship” from Cambridge to attend the University of Massachusetts at
Dartmouth, where he acquired more Fs on his transcript than semesters. The
taxpayers provided Tamerlan with $5,566 to attend two state-run junior
colleges. The Mercedes-driving boxer preferred, like his parents, the dole to a
paycheck once he started his own family. Jason Russell and Carlos Arredondo had obligations; Tamerlan and Dzhokhar
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s sense of entitlement followed
him to the grave, which his immediate family refused to pay for, sparking an
international body-without-a-burial-place controversy until several do-gooders,
including an uncle horrified by his nephew’s violent ingratitude, intervened.
Jason Russell lies in a group plot alongside twelve others killed in the
village of Menotomy during the first day of the American Revolution. Russell’s
heroism didn’t even win him a coffin.
Though the first Boston Marathon didn’t take place
until more than a century after Concord, Lexington, and the bloodier battle in
which Jason Russell gave his life, the combatants on the first Patriots’ Day
surely completed a marathon if not as the crow flies then certainly as the chaotic
violence took them. “At length, about sunset, almost on the run, they reached
Charlestown Common, where they were sheltered by the guns from the ships, and
the pursuit was stopped,” John Stetson Barry wrote of the fleeing British in
his three-volume History of Massachusetts.
“Of the Americans, forty-nine were killed, thirty-nine were wounded, and five
were missing. Of the British, seventy-three were killed, one hundred and
seventy-four were wounded, and twenty-six were missing. This was the commencement
of the War of the Revolution. The blood of the English and of the American had
flowed; the union of the colonies with Great Britain was severed; and from this
hour the era of Independence properly dates. ‘What a glorious morning is this!’
exclaimed Samuel Adams, as he heard the sound of the guns at Lexington. It was
the morning of freedom. The day star of liberty had risen upon America.”
Bloodshed, sacrifice for the greater good,
extraordinary acts authored by ordinary people—if Patriots’ Day took on this
“new” meaning after the Boston Marathon Bombing it’s only because so many had forgotten
its old meaning. What’s a first responder but a modern-day Minuteman? Who’s Carlos Arredondo but Jason Russell? Why rush to the
sound of danger instead of from it save for a loyalty to something greater than
Patriots give beyond the expected. Traitors take
beyond decency. Is it any wonder that a day celebrating the former virtue so
irritated those suffering from the latter vice?
Daniel J. Flynn,
A Conservative History of the American Left, Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America, and other books, edits Breitbart Sports.