Few will forget the 117th Boston Marathon. But though coverage of the event was both heart-breaking and unforgettable, one event will forever remain in my memory: the performance of the National Anthem before a Sabres–Bruins game a couple of days after the tragedy.
Rene Rancourt has been singing the U.S. and Canadian National Anthems at Boston Bruins games for 35 years. As usual, the Boston legend walked out to the ice to sing his rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” moments before the first Bruins game at the TD Garden since the bombing.
The first few lines went uneventfully. But when Rancourt reached “What so proudly we hailed,” something beautiful happened.
As one, the sell-out crowd of 17,565 at the TD Garden began singing in unison. When each person in the arena began singing at the top of his or her lungs, I froze. Chills were running down my spine for the whole of the hymn. I hummed along with the tune, took off my hat and put my hand over heart as if I was there myself.
When the Anthem concluded, the crowd gave a 30-second standing ovation and chanted “USA” again and again. I nearly started chanting myself.
Never have I heard a more beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The patriotism and pride in that building was simply outstanding. Something touched me deep inside when I heard the crowd sing as one. I was profoundly inspired.
Sometimes we lose sight in life of what is important. Events such as the bombing of the Boston Marathon serve as a reminder of what truly matters. At times, too much importance is placed on sports.
But sports offer us a much needed distraction. The world is harsh, filled with many pitfalls and tragedies. Sports allow us to take a break and get away from life for a while. Wednesday’s Bruins-Sabres game allowed the 17,565 people in attendance and thousands of others watching on television to forget that those responsible for the despicable acts were on the loose.
Sports can unite us as few other things can. Politics, religion and many other ideas can divide us. But sports bring us together. If only for a few hours, a group of people can put aside their differences and become one. For the whole of last Wednesday’s hockey game, every Bostonian was a Bruins fan. Even if only for a short time, we weren’t Democrats or Republicans, black or white. We were simply Bostonians and Americans.
It is times like these that make my job as a sportswriter seem meaningful.
Out of the tragedy, the Boston Marathon proved one thing. When we are united as one, few things can bring us down, not even a terrorist attack – for we are strong.