Tom Menino Stood Up
Tom Menino looked anguished. Sitting by the altar of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross this morning in his wheelchair, he clasped his hands and occasionally leaned forward. His face drooped—he looked like he might never smile again.
The last time all of the city’s and state’s dignitaries gathered in one place was for his announcement exactly three weeks ago that, after 20 years as Boston’s mayor, he would not seek another term. That affair was both wistful and triumphant. As he finished his speech in Faneuil Hall that day, Menino reminded the crowd that he still had nine more months in office. “Just think of what I could do in nine months,” he cackled, going off script. “We could have some real fun.”
At this morning’s interfaith service, fun seemed very far away. When the bombs struck on Monday, Menino was recovering from surgery for a broken leg and had to check himself out of the hospital to tend to the response. He’s remained wheelchair bound, and when it was his turn to speak today, Menino’s son, a Boston police officer, helped push him toward the pulpit. For a few moments, both Tom Menino, Jr. and a priest bent over, seemingly fidgeting with something on the ground or maybe with Menino’s wheelchair. Short of stacking up phone books, it wasn’t quite clear how the infirmed mayor was going to reach the microphone. Then he lurched forward and heaved himself up from his chair. As he stood straight up, I could have sworn I heard the crowd gasp. It was like a current went through the room.
“Since the clocks struck that fateful hour, love has covered this resilient city,” Menino opened, “I have never loved it and its people more than I do today. We have never loved it and its people more than we do today.”
And then the craziest thing happened: Menino gave a knockout speech. The man nicknamed Mumbles spoke (mostly) clearly, inflected at the right moments, made an appropriate joke, and stirred real emotion. He sniffled at times and his voice cracked with emotion, but who could blame him?
The highlight was his finish:
I’m telling you, nothing can defeat the heart of this city. Nothing. Nothing will take us down, because we take care of one another. Even with the smell of smoke in the air … and blood on the streets … tears in our eyes … we triumphed over that hateful act on Monday afternoon. It’s a glorious thing, the love and the strength that covers our city. It will push us forward, it will push thousands and thousands and thousands of people across the finish line next year. Because this is Boston, a city with the courage, compassion and strength that knows no bounds.
The speech was short and, chances are, it’ll be overshadowed nationally by the soaring rhetoric of Governor Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama, both much more naturally gifted orators. But nobody loves Boston as much as Tom Menino. And I am quite sure that I’ll never forget the moment when he stood up, challenging the rest of the city to stand up with him.
You can find video here—Menino’s speech comes at about the 16:00 mark. Below is the full text of the speech, as provided by the mayor’s office.
Good morning. And it is a good morning because we are together. We are one Boston. No adversity, no challenge – nothing – can tear down the resilience of this city and its people.
It is written that, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” And since the clocks struck that fateful hour, love has covered this resilient city. I have never loved it and its people more than I do today. We have never loved it and its people more than we do today.
We love the brave ones who felt the blast and still raced to the smoke. With ringing in their ears, they tugged gates to the ground to answer cries from those in need. This was the courage of our city at work.
We love the fathers and the brothers who took shirts off their backs to stop the bleeding. The mothers and the sisters who cared for the injured. The neighbors and the business owners, the homeowners all across this city, they opened their doors and hearts to the weary and the scared. They said, “What’s mine is yours. We’ll get through this together.” This was the compassion of our city at work.
We have never loved the heroes who wear the uniforms more than we do at this hour. Boston’s Finest in their blue carried kids to safety and calmed a city in a crisis. The EMTs performed miracles in an instant. Firefighters answered the call. We love the National Guard and our service members who brought valor to our streets. The volunteers in their BAAjackets and vests. And the doctors and the nurses who waited in their scrubs and did not buckle as the victims and their grave injuries arrived. This was the strength of our city at work.
We have never loved the people of the world and our great country more for their prayers and wishes. And yes, we even love New York City more – “Sweet Caroline” playing in Yankee Stadium and our city’s flag flying in Lower Manhattan.
It gives us even more strength to say prayer after prayer for the victims still recovering in the hospitals and at home. It gives us the strength to say good-bye to the young boy with a big heart, Martin Richard. We pray for his sister and mom, his brother and dad. It helps us say that we’ll miss Krystle Campbell and celebrate her spirit that brought her to the marathon year after year. And it prepares us to mourn Lingzi Lu who came to this city in search of an education, but found new friends who will never forget her.
I’m telling you, nothing can defeat the heart of this city. Nothing. Nothing will take us down, because we take care of one another. Even with the smell of smoke in the air…and blood on the streets… tears in our eyes… we triumphed over that hateful act on Monday afternoon. It’s a glorious thing, the love and the strength that covers our city. It will push us forward, it will push thousands and thousands and thousands of people across the finish line next year. Because this is Boston, a city with the courage, compassion and strength that knows no bounds.