Local Leaders Reflect On ‘Making Boston Stronger’

Boston was able to come together in the aftermath of last year’s marathon because the city had prepared for it and trusted each other, said former mayor Thomas M. Menino at the Clough Colloquium’s Making Boston Stronger panel in Robsham Theater on May 7. The panel was comprised of Deval L. Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts; Menino, the former mayor of Boston; and Edward Davis, the 40th police commissioner of Boston. Chief National Correspondent for CNN John King moderated the panel, which was the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics’ final event for the 2013-14 academic year.

A little over a year ago, Boston residents saw their community leaders come together in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon. The people of Boston witnessed “a desperately needed bout of democratic vitality,” said Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences David Quigley in his introduction of the guests.

King began the discussion by asking the three panelists about the differences in preparation for this year’s and last year’s marathons. King mentioned that many politicians lose touch with their home cities, but noted that the panelists present all stayed in touch with Boston.

“One of the most important things we did see in the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the months after the tragedy was the connection these men had with their city,” King said.

Throughout the panel, each of the men emphasized that there have been trainings throughout the past several years to prepare for an event like the 2013 attacks. For example, Patrick said, the people working in medical tents last year were able to save so many lives because they were running a triage operation that had been put in place six years ago and practiced since then. For this year’s marathon, security forces prepared differently, including a rehearsal crisis event about a month before the marathon, in anticipation of something going wrong, he said.

“The level of anticipation for things that might go wrong was obviously higher,” Patrick said. “I realized at about [3 p.m.] in the afternoon that I had been holding my breath until 2:50, and I just exhaled at that point. I thought to myself, if any goof was going to do something stupid, it might well be at the exact moment of the day.”

Menino has been to many marathons, he said, but nothing like this had ever happened. In the 118 years that the Boston Marathon has been happening, something like the bombing has only ever happened once. A key part of the city’s success in catching the terrorists was communication between security forces and the public, he said, which was facilitated by the media. The public had trust in its leaders and was able to stay calm despite uncertainty, Menino said.

“That was Boston’s finest hour,” he said. “Boston grew that week.”

 

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Carolyn Freeman is the Editor-in-Chief for The Heights. You can follow her on Twitter at @carolynrfreeman. She drinks her coffee iced with chocolate soy milk.