10 Days: Menino on impact of Patriots Day

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
4:26
PM ET
In the 26 days leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 21, ESPNBoston.com will share inspiring stories, detail important logistics and go inside the planning for what promises to be an event like no other in the wake of last year's bombings. There are 10 days until the race.

Though he long led a sports-crazed city, you wouldn't always know it from listening to Thomas M. Menino.

[+] EnlargeMenino
AP Photo/Robert F. BukatyMayor Thomas Menino was in the hospital recovering from a broken ankle on Patriots Day last year.
The five-term mayor, who no doubt has had more important things on his mind, is perhaps best known for his "ionic" misstatements ("Varitek split the uprights," the Red Sox won "the World Series cup" and the Patriots really missed the contributions of their big tight end "Gonk") about the Boston sports landscape.

But there can be no doubt that there's a special place in the 71-year-old's heart for Patriots Day and the Boston Marathon.

"Well, Patriots Day is really the marathon day. It's probably the finest day we have in the city," he said. "It's a family day, a lot of good things are happening. ... The Red Sox play in the morning, the marathon finishes after the ballgame.

"That whole weekend is a very special weekend. It's really the start of spring, the start of the real family activities in the city of Boston after a cold, long winter."

Menino said he enjoyed going to the marathon even before he was mayor. And during his two decades in office, Menino crowned his share of marathon champions with the traditional laurel wreath.

"In the past I've been in the front row of the grandstand, right across from where the [first] bombing happened," he said.

But in 2013, Menino couldn't be in his usual place on Boylston Street. He'd fractured his right ankle days before, and was recuperating in a hospital bed at Brigham and Women's when the bombs went off.

The former mayor said the coincidence made him think a little.

"It crossed my mind for a second -- I always sat there with my grandkids," he said. "So I thought about it for a second, but I can't think about myself. It wasn't about me, it was about the people."

From the moment the bombs exploded, Menino has been steadfastly focused on those who lost their lives and those who survived but who face vastly different lives than they did before April 15, 2013.

"I don't consider myself," Menino said. "You're the mayor, you're the official head of city, you deal with all these issues. I wasn't concerned with Tom Menino, I was concerned about the people of Boston and also the survivors of the incident."

He left his hospital bed, against doctors' orders, and rushed to the scene as a sign of support. He fought through the pain he felt, resolved to help those affected and to show the people of Boston that things were under control. When he returned to Brigham and Women's later Monday night, Menino hatched the idea with Governor Deval L. Patrick for a fund that later became the One Fund.

In the year since the bombings, Menino has spent a lot of time with the first responders, the survivors and their families.

"They're resilient, they're strong and they hope for a better future," he said. "I think we've supported them for the last year, we're gonna support them for years out. It's amazing to me the strength they have."

And with the one-year anniversary of the attacks and the 2014 edition of the race approaching, Menino said he understands that what happened in 2013 will be front and center in people's minds. But he also believes it's time to move forward.

"I think a long conversation about the marathon will last," he said, "but once that gun goes off and the runners run the 26.2 miles, we'll all be out there cheering for the runners at the finish line.

"This has left an indelible mark, but I know the survivors want to get beyond the marathon day and enjoy themselves. Marathon [bombing] survivors will be at the finish line, also, cheering on the runners."

Since leaving office, Menino has taken a position as co-director of Boston University's Initiative on Cities, where he says his mission is "to work with mayors globally and try to help them do a better job as they run their cities."

The Hyde Park native revealed last month that he's been diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer. He's begun treatment, and isn't letting this latest health issue slow him down.

"I'm feeling great," Menino said when asked about his health. "I'm in my office every day working hard. It's only a bump in the road.

"The doctors have been very encouraged by how I've responded. They tell me 'Just keep active, just keep on doing your job.'"

Though dealing with a terrorist attack and the ensuing manhunt that temporarily paralyzed the city and several surrounding municipalities isn't how Menino would've drawn up one of the last months of his tenure, he said it didn't change the way he looked at his last year in office.

"That's only one incident. The city had a great year last year except for that one incident," he said. "That's not gonna mar the whole year for us. It did have an effect on us. But [what] I saw [is] Boston is a strong city and a resilient city. It can deal with issues like this, and it did deal with an issue like this. Some other cities would not have been able to recover as fast as we did."

Menino will be back at the marathon this year, though he's not sure exactly where he'll be yet.

And when the former mayor was asked if he'd worry at all about having his family at the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon, his answer was emphatic -- if appropriately Menino-esque.

"No, no," he said. "That's beyond us. [We've run] how many marathons? 140 marathons, something like that? We've never had an incident. This is the first time we've had an incident at the marathon.

"We can't let this stop us, we've gotta keep on moving."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

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