This is going to be another one of those Boston Marathon stories.
But it isn’t going to be another one of those Boston Marathon stories.
Because my friend Gayle was there — even though she wasn’t … you know … there.
“My husband, Ron, was running in the marathon,” Gayle, who is not a runner, told me. “It was the 45th marathon that he has run in, which means that I’ve been to enough finish lines to know that I do not like them.”
So instead of lingering on Boylston Street waiting for Ron to finish, Gayle decided to take in the traditional Patriots’ Day Red Sox game at historic Fenway Park. The game always starts early enough in the day — 11:05 a.m. — that there are still plenty of marathon runners to be cheered on as fans leave the ballpark at the end of the game.
As delighted as she was to not be stuck with waiting for Ron at another marathon finish line, Gayle was a little nervous to be heading out alone into a city with which she was unfamiliar. But whatever anxiety she was feeling passed as soon as she slid into the back seat of the friendliest cab driver she had ever met.
A friendly, Middle Eastern, Muslim cab driver.
“His smile was so warm and engaging,” Gayle said, “and the Middle Eastern music he was playing on the radio was so soothing. As we drove around in that impossible traffic, he made me feel safe and comfortable and relaxed.”
The two of them chatted amiably as they made their way toward Fenway. When she explained why she was in town, he teased her about not being there to watch her husband finish.
“What if he wins the race?” the driver asked.
Gayle chuckled. She loves Ron and supports his passion for running even though she doesn’t share it. But she knew that his chances of winning the Boston Marathon are about the same as Glenn Beck’s chances of being invited to Sasha Obama’s 12th birthday party in June.
“I’ll have plenty of time to get to the finish line to see him,” she said, smiling, “even if the game goes into extra innings.”
The cab driver got Gayle to Fenway safely, taking extra care to drop her off as close as possible to the gate she needed to enter. It was a great start to a day that seemed to keep getting better.
The Red Sox won a close game. Unseasonably warm temperatures made it feel like a balmy summer day at Fenway. And when Ron called to tell her he had finished the race with an excellent time, Gayle was sure this was a day they would always remember.
Which, or course, it turned out to be.
As she walked back toward the finish line — there was no use trying to get a cab after the game — Gayle said that people were in a jovial, festive mood.
“People were pleasant and helpful when I asked for directions,” she said. “I was completely alone in a big city but felt like I was part of a wonderful human family.”
The festive mood turned abruptly into panic following two loud explosions that occurred when Gayle was two blocks from the finish line. Suddenly, it seemed like everyone was running toward her shouting into their cellphones. And everyone was using the same word: “Bombs.”
Thanks to their cellphones, Gayle and Ron were quickly reunited.
“We were both fine,” Gayle said. “But many, many were not.”
You’ve doubtless heard that part of the story: the tragic deaths, the life-altering injuries, the search for the perpetrators and the subsequent arrest.
For Gayle, it was “weird” to realize how close she had come to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And she hurts for those who were, and whose lives were forever changed as a result of being there. But the memory of that pleasant Muslim cab driver who took such good care of her earlier in the day gives her a comforting sense of peaceful perspective.
“Yes, there are evil people in the world,” she says. “But we can’t let that blind us to the fact that there are many more good people who make the world a better place with their smiles, their kindness and their daily acts of decency.”
Which you should know even if you weren’t … you know … there.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, please go to www.josephbwalker.com.