BOSTON -- The games will begin again, because now, more than ever, what we crave is normalcy.
The Bruins will drop the puck tonight at the Garden against the Buffalo Sabres and we will attempt to discuss in earnest whether Jagr will put the boys over the top, whether Rask can supplant Thomas as a Stanley Cup hero between the pipes, whether Lucic can shake himself out of his agitating funk and hit somebody already (and then score a goal, if you please).
Sports have long been a joyous diversion from the mundane, the maudlin, the morose. No one should quarrel with the Bruins playing hockey tonight. If they provide some comfort or distraction to just one person affected by the numbing tragedy that shattered our city on Patriots Day, they will have served a purpose far beyond a bountiful dossier of goals and assists and banners.
But please forgive me if I'm not there just yet.
When I'm asked to discuss the Boston Bruins today, the image that springs to mind is a photograph of a smiling 8-year-old boy in a spoked B's sweater, whose enthusiasm for his local hockey team was apparent in his generous smile and his dancing brown eyes. Martin Richard enjoyed climbing trees and playing with his brother and his sister. He was killed for merely enjoying a beautiful, sunny afternoon, watching the finish of a very long race. His mother and sister were standing next to him, and they were gravely wounded.
We are left to ask why. Why did something so routine, a part of our city's fabric for 117 years, suddenly become ripped apart at the seams?
Attending the Marathon with your family is a Boston tradition, as much as the initial pilgrimage to Fenway or a maiden voyage on the Swan Boats.
When I was a little girl, my parents took my sisters and me to Heartbreak Hill, where we enthusiastically handed out tiny cups of water to any runner who would accept our offerings. We reveled in this exercise for hours, regardless of whether they drank it, crushed it or simply ignored us. The pageantry of the competitors was endlessly entertaining. Her shorts are too short. His socks are too long. Did you see that hat? What did that sign say on her back? Whoa. Check out that rainbow hair!
Once, I pressed my father on why we couldn't take the subway all the way into town and wait at the finish line.
"Too crowded,'' my father responded.
It would have never -- ever -- occurred to him to say, "Too dangerous.''
An act of terror is meant to inflict pain, but most of all, spawn fear.
And, yet, out of each tragedy, a human spirit arises that is as stunning as the events that precipitated it. Boston is a resilient place -- gritty, proud and most of all, loyal to its own.
So we shouldn't have been surprised when runners who already had logged 26 miles kept on jogging to the hospital to donate blood, or when spectators tore off their clothes so they could be used as tourniquets for the wounded. Families opened their homes to complete strangers. Medical personnel worked through the night, then wept for those whose limbs they could not reattach.
Organizers of the Boston Marathon already have vowed to hold the race next year. President Obama declared in the aftermath of the explosions, "The American people refuse to be terrorized.''
We will soldier on, albeit with fresh wounds and shaken psyches that will require healing, each at our own pace. We will pray for the victims, lament another slice of innocence lost, and promise ourselves it will get better, in time.
I covered the Boston Marathon for a bunch of years. I was there at the finish, steps from where the bomb in the black duffel bag exploded, when Alberto Salazar set a course record in 1982 by outlasting Dick Beardsley in the famed "Duel in the Sun." Salazar collapsed at the finish line and was later administered six liters of intravenous fluids. I was there a year later, when Joan Benoit set a world record, celebrated by dancing all night, then showed up for work the next morning as a track coach at Boston University.
Ten years after that, in 1993, I was a spectator again, this time as a new mother of a 13-month-old daughter. We chose a spot along Commonwealth Avenue near Brae Burn Country Club to watch the race, not far from where my father had taken me as a child.
We cheered as defending champion Ibrahim Hussein of Kenya, a three-time winner of the Boston Marathon, approached us wearing the coveted bib No. 1. To our surprise, he abruptly stopped, veered off the course and stopped in the grass directly in front of us.
He appeared to be laboring, so my husband, Michael, offered him a drink from our cooler. He gratefully accepted, then told us he dropped out because he was cramping, and if he pushed to finish it would hamper his future races.
Hussein lingered a few minutes longer, thanked us for our hospitality, and even posed for a picture with our daughter (which immediately found its way into the front of her baby scrapbook).
I revisited that snapshot in the aftermath of Monday's terror. It was a moment of intimacy that didn't even seem all that remarkable at the time. It was the Boston Marathon -- our marathon -- the pride of our big town or small city, depending on which lenses you chose to view Boston through. I imagine no one will ever enjoy such an experience again. Surely now if a world-class runner drops out of the race, he will be immediately whisked away by a necessary gaggle of security personnel.
The Boston Marathon will never be the same, and neither will the great people of the city of Boston. That is a fact we will wrestle with in the days and months and years ahead.
We will be brave for the woman who knelt and prayed along the mangled bars of the metal barriers, for the elderly runner who was literally blown off his feet to the asphalt, dazed and disoriented by a blast that simply made no sense.
The first step in regaining our faith, and our trust, is to reopen the streets, to re-establish our community as one that stands together. The Bruins will do their part tonight to help lift the pall that has enveloped us. Soon the Celtics will begin their playoff run, and the Red Sox will look to build on the Farrell Factor that has wooed us back to Fenway.
We will cheer for our teams, as we always have, with fervor that some say is more passionate than required. We will put the tattered pieces of April 15, 2013, behind us, and we will be stronger because no one can destroy the spirit of our great city.
Yes, we will do all of that, I am certain.
Just not by tonight.
Moving beyond Martin Richard's dancing brown eyes is going to take some time.