What makes a person a Bostonian? What is needed to say that you are a part of this city?
Not too long ago, there was a prevailing school of thought that, unless you were born, raised, went to school, and settled down in Boston proper, you were not really a "Bostonian". Being a true Bostonian was a very exclusive club, and if you skimped on any of the aforementioned four attributes, you were, at best, a wannabe -- or a townie. If you crossed the border into any number of the neighboring towns -- Watertown, Somerville, Everett, Newton, Quincy -- then you revoked your pure Boston identity. If you moved here from outside of Boston, if you moved out of Boston -- yup, not really Boston anymore.
As Marathon Monday approaches -- as we get closer to the one-year anniversary of the Marathon Bombing -- I only have one thing to say: everything has changed, including what makes a person a part of Boston.
To all the people in all the surrounding towns, you are Boston. If the skyline puts a smile on your face and your heart skips a beat when you hear the first three seconds of the Standell's "Dirty Water", you are Boston. If you prefer "Sweet Caroline" over "Dirty Water" -- or if you don't equate any song with the city -- you are Boston. If you feel a bit of pride every time they film another movie in the area -- even if it's another crappy Kevin James movie -- you are Boston. If you roll your eyes every time they film another movie in the area because it might be another crappy Kevin James movie (and no movie will ever really do the city justice), you are Boston.
If you moved here from anywhere else on the globe to get one of the best educations in the world, you are Boston. It doesn't matter if your college is in the heart of Boston, the outskirts of Boston, or Cambridge (which, yes, is its own municipality). It doesn't matter if you came here on scholarship, for sports, or for graduate school. It doesn't matter if you move out immediately after or set down your stakes and set up shop. You are Boston.
If you tuned in to the news on April 15, 2013, and found out that two bombs had gone off by the finish line of the Boston Marathon. If you felt a pit forming in your stomach or your heart rising to your throat when President Obama came on the airwaves and talked about the resiliency of this beautiful little city. If you prayed for those who were hurt, for those who had passed and the family & friends who mourned them. If you gave to the One Fund or wore a "We Run for Boston" shirt or simply kept Boston in your heart when it was your turn at the starting line. If you signed up for a race, went for a jog, hugged people just a little tighter, in honor of those affected during that fateful day. You are Boston.
If you were there when those blasts went off -- if you ran to the source of the explosion to desperately see where you could help. If you provided shelter and support to displaced runners. If you ran to the Red Cross to donate time and money and blood. If you sang the National Anthem with all of your heart and soul during the Bruins game that Thursday. If you helped the police officers in any way during that following Friday, even if it was just by agreeing to stay inside and not interfere. If you cheered in the streets or if you cheered at home, if only because you knew that the residents of Boston felt such a tremendous wave of relief...
You are Boston. You are truly Boston in ways that I'll never be able to articulate in words.
And to the runners who are coming in from the four corners of the world. To the volunteers and the bystanders from all walks of life who are traveling to or within Boston to support those who are running this year: you are Boston. It doesn't matter if this is your first time in the city, if you don't speak the language, if you get frustrated at the confusing street signs and jaywalking pedestrians. You are Boston, tried and true.
Lastly, if you are reading this and feel anything for this quirky, flawed city, perfect in its imperfections. If you are able to take a moment and realize just how much this city means to its residents and how deeply last year's event affected us. If you can take a moment for Martin William Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, and Sean Collier. If you can take a moment for those who lost their life -- not roll your eyes and compare it to other world events or say, "your city wasn't leveled by Godzilla," but genuinely and solemnly take a moment for everyone who was affected, you are Boston.
And we're so happy to have you on board. Welcome to Boston.