Having had the opportunity to personally meet and have a brief conversation with the president of the United States after an interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End of Boston April 18, I didn’t believe I could experience anything more astounding. I was wrong.
Two days later, I rested on my couch having gotten almost no sleep the previous night. I was, of course, riveted to the ongoing news coverage. Then, I got a call from BAA Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray around 9 a.m.
He said: "Tom, can you get to Fenway Park by 11:30 to take part in a flag ceremony?"
I told him of course, whatever you need.
He asked me to round up 10 marathon volunteers, and he would call back to confirm and give instructions in a few minutes.
Now, fully awake and alert, I began calling my volunteers, a task made more difficult as many were on their way to various races.
A few minutes later, Dave called back to confirm, and said: "Can you get 25 volunteers?" Yikes! That number quickly went to 50.
Unbelievably, we rounded up 40 volunteers by 10 a.m., and made our way to Gate C for further instructions of the day's events.
The Red Sox were honoring the victims, first responders and others involved in the attacks on the 2013 Boston Marathon, before the start of the game against the Kansas City Royals.
Our task would be to walk out in single line formation along the warning track of the Fenway outfield just in front of the Green Monster. We would be introduced as representatives of the 8,500 marathon volunteers.
After the playing of the National Anthem, the giant flag hanging over the Green Monster would be lowered into our arms, and we would march off the field. It sounded pretty simple.
As we waited in the holding area in leftfield with the stands filling up, we began to suspect this was going to be a bigger deal than we thought. Wally the Green Monster, the Red Sox mascot, stopped by to say hello, and I got my picture taken with him. That was almost as good as the picture I got with President Obama.
Then the program began with a video montage of the day’s events from the Marathon. Though we were still in our holding area, I could see the giant screen from my position as the lead for our team. I had to lower my sunglasses as tears began to well in my eyes.
Then, on cue, we marched onto the field.
The capacity crowd was on its feet clapping, screaming and chanting, "U-S-A," and it was for us, the representatives of all the wonderful marathon volunteers. There are no words adequate to explain the emotion we all felt at that moment.
Page 2 of 2 - At the conclusion of the ceremony, we were presented with tickets for the game in seats just to the left of the Pesky Pole in right field. As we made our way there, fans were high-fiving us, patted us on our backs and signal thumbs-up. Could things ever get any better?
It was pretty chilly as a result of a persistent wind, and I suggested we head home. My wife, Lyn, the newly converted Red Sox fan, insisted that we at least wait until the eighth inning, so we could sing "Sweet Caroline." Reluctantly, I consented. And it was a good thing that I did.
Neil Diamond stepped on to the field. Yes, Neil Diamond. Yes, Neil Diamond who flew the red eye from LA to sing his signature song to the fans of Boston. Never has that song been sung by so many with such emotion.
And then, the Red Sox pulled out the win on a dramatic three-run homer by Daniel Nava.
So there you have it. April 20, 2013. Coincidentally, it was my birthday, and one that I shall never forget. The healing has begun, and we are all Boston Strong.
Tom Licciardello is a founding member of the Merrimack Valley Striders. Licciardello has participated in 35 Boston’s and 88 marathons, and this was his first year as a start line coordinator. He has served on the BAA Boston Marathon organizing committee for the last 23 years, and was the lead during Saturday's Fenway procession.