Martin Richard. Jan Marcos Pena. Two names, one forever in the public memory as the youngest Marathon bombing victim, the other a victim of a fatal shooting in Mattapan just a few weeks ago. Yet, when newly appointed Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans spoke at BC the other night, I was struck by how he used the name of almost every single victim he talked about and the dignity that came with each usage.
So his reference to the alleged Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev as solely “white hat” seemed peculiar. He was able to remember the exact names of victims or even particular addresses of the party-prone BC student houses, but a name seared into the memory of thousands, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, went unmentioned. There was only a reference to the hat he was wearing in one of the first pictures released to the public.
It became clear after a few more minutes this was no slip of the tongue. Evans continued to mention “black hat” and “white hat.” Finally, he explained himself. “I call them ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat,'” he said. “I don’t like saying their names.” Evans refused to grant them, the men who attacked his city on one of his favorite days of the year, the same dignity as the hundreds of victims he has seen in his time as a police officer in Boston.
A 45-time marathoner, Evans completed the 2013 Boston Marathon only to be pulled from his post-race whirlpool and beer to respond to the explosions on Boylston St. He then spent the next week surviving on water, granola bars, and only about 10 hours of sleep until Tsarnaev was captured.
His story, already told by Runners World, National Geographic, GQ, and Anderson Cooper, is making him a highly recognizable figure. Evans’ name is finally getting the recognition it deserves. There is very little I, a writer from a college newspaper, can add that will not seem redundant or trite.
But, in some ways, Evans’s story is so classically Boston it can’t help but seem a little cliche, in the best way. Born, raised, and still a resident in South Boston, Evans still goes down to the Shamrock Pub with his brothers every weekend.
His new push into the spotlight still seems startling to him. “My wife calls me this morning and says ‘did you see the Metro newspaper?'” He shook his head and explained, “they’re all over me because I’m not a tweeter.” He paused for a second. “A tweeter … is that what you call it?”
There is something wonderfully human about Evans. He is far too humble for his role. He claims the hardest part of his new job as police commissioner is “finding an outfit.” “For 33 years I wore the same dark blue suit,” he explained in his surprisingly soft voice and South Boston accent. He even poked fun of himself as to how he looked in his dress uniform in GQ, “I look like a little kid playing dress up,” he said. Just the idea of being in GQseemed funny to him.
This humility and quiet leadership is a lesson so many BC students should absorb. After the capture of Tsarnaev, Evans was swept into photo opportunities with important politicians across the city. He said he could barely be seen in the back of all the people. Rather than fight his way through, he turned to his guys with him and said, in a wonderfully Boston manner, “Do you want to go get a beer?” He never did get to finish his beer after running 26.2 miles, after all.
His story has been told over and over again, but it begs repeating. He has a connection to BC students-his son is enrolled-and the achievement of which he is most proud, funnily enough, is the introduction to a fence around the Mods. (Sorry, guys.) We should be proud to share even small links with a man whose name deserves to be remembered.