Posted: Sat April 20, 2013 2:48PM; Updated: Mon April 22, 2013 9:57AM
S.L. Price
S.L. Price>VIEWPOINT

A reeling Boston starts the road to recovery at Fenway Park

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David Ortiz provided the perfect exclamation point to what had been a somber ceremony at Fenway Park.
David Ortiz provided the perfect exclamation point to what had been a somber ceremony at Fenway.
Michael Dwyer/AP

BOSTON -- The morning after, nearing 11 a.m.: A family rides the Green Line to Kenmore, the two little girls with pigtails touched up with Red Sox barrettes. The dad is wearing a Boston shirt, like everyone else in the packed subway car. His wife is scanning her phone, talking about the pregame ceremony: Arrive early, it says. Make time for the security check. The dad knows a woman from work. You could see her in all the coverage of the bombs going off. She was fine, he said. Except for the eardrums.

After it was over, there had been drinking overnight in bars, in living rooms, horns honking, crowds cheering cop cars as they rolled past. The city was free. The two bombers had been killed or caught, and Saturday's Red Sox game at Fenway was going to be played, and now the car is sardine-packed with people. But nobody is talking, not loudly anyway. The car rolls and sways and bodies bump, but nobody glares; just a tight smile here and there. It doesn't feel like a game day. The train passes through another station. "Boylston Street," the dad says, over his daughters' heads, to his wife.

At Kenmore station, the crowd surges forward, polite, deferential. One guy tries to get things going when the doors open, claps his hands four or five times. No one picks up on it. Two men in fatigues are waiting at the foot of the escalator, eyeing the families and single men and women. Everyone is wearing Red Sox gear. A sea of red, as the saying goes. One of the girls in the barrettes stops and grins at one of the soldiers and reaches up her hand, just the way Norman Rockwell would've framed it. They shake, and people turn their heads to watch even as the escalator lifts them away.

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Fans begin wandering toward their seats at Fenway Park just before noon, while the Kansas City Royals are taking batting practice. Designated hitter David Ortiz is in the lineup. "First time all year, right?" asks someone in the press box. A radio guy in the front row, local fixture forever, whirls around and stands up out of his chair. "You from out of town?" he snaps. "Read your ----in' paper!"

It is all the same, then: The Pru looming out over right field, the State House's gleaming gold dome out past right center, the Citgo sign over left, the perfect green paint covering the park like a blanket. But the Green Monster also has a new sign now, the familiar logo: B with "Strong" in white stenciled below it. Next to that, on the pole, the American flag turns and droops and lifts slowly with the wind around the pole, only halfway up.

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Kids gather in the accustomed clutch behind the Red Sox dugout, looking like they want the usual: Autographs, a photo, just a look. But then there are couples holding emerald "Believe in Boston" flags. A boy holds up a sign: "Wicked Strong". A college kid who ran his first marathon last week stands at the edge, wearing his blue and gold warmup, right eardrum still numb. It is 12:25 p.m. now. A man sits reading his Globe, the one with the headline, "Nightmare's End". Four dead, 180 hurt, an officer in the hospital fighting for his life; bombs and gunplay in Watertown. It's Saturday. The week is over.

The organist plays "Ain't She Sweet", and it is the way Fenway always is, the smell of sausages, popcorn -- like a carnival. Then he mixes in some odd ones, giving the day its due: The Cure's "In Between Days", with the line, "Yesterday I got so old/I felt like I could die." A bit later, "As Tears Go By".

At 1:05 p.m., they begin a video montage on the scoreboard in centerfield, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" playing behind it, Clay Buchholz warming up in the bullpen below. A "Keep on Running" sign flashes on the screen and the crowd cheers. Then photos of President Obama, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick. Applause rises and falls, like waves, and they show a sign for Watertown, and at the end a shot of the flowers and signs and flags set up on the police barriers on Boylston Street.

At 1:10 p.m., the dugouts empty and both teams come out and line the basepaths. They show the four who died: 8-year-old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, 23-year-old Lingzi Lu, 26-year-old Sean Collier. Then comes a stream of yellow-clad marathon volunteers out in left field, first responders, police chiefs, the FBI agent in charge, the governor, to the grass around the pitchers mound. Then everybody in the place sings the national anthem, but it isn't defiant, not like the one at the Boston Garden Wednesday night. It is sad and soft, a bit tired; even the "U-S-A!" chant that follows lacks the usual bite. Everyone is so tired.

Then comes the best thing, unscripted. It is like someone saying, finally, "Enough". Ortiz stands on the field with a microphone in hand, and after all the guests walk off he addresses the crowd. "This is our f---ing city," he says. "And nobody going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong." The F-word is the best part. The hard, unpolished, Boston part. It's a fist thrust into the air.

Enough. Buchholz' first pitch is at 1:35 p.m, a strike. The week from hell is done.

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