Michael Kennedy: Marathoner

It was hard not to be reflective on my run this morning. As I jogged from Ayer into Devens, several half-staff flags were in sight. My thoughts immediately went to Wednesday’s tragedy in Boston: 2 firefighters were killed battling a wind-driven blaze.

By late Wednesday, we learned their names and envied their efforts – they selflessly died while attempting to make sure no one else did. And they succeeded: there were no additional fatalities.

For a time, they were just names – Michael Kennedy, Edward Walsh.

It was hard for me at first to identify with them. It’s easy to label them heroes, first responders, brave. There is more to them, though.

Walsh was a father of three, and since I am also a father (of one), my heart immediately went out to his family. Kennedy was single and served in Iraq. I always look up to veterans because they, like firefighters, perform unselfish duty – and expect no accolades in return. I could never imagine what it would be like to attend Boot Camp let alone serve your country overseas. But I can identify with Kennedy more than I can with, say, Tom Brady or David Ortiz – the face of Boston’s teams. Kennedy and Walsh are now the faces of Boston itself.

The kinship I feel with Kennedy is evident despite the fact I never met him. He was a runner. And next month he would have completed a circle; after being a first responder at last year’s Boston Marathon bombing and he was recently in training to run in the race with fellow firefighters.

Kennedy was slated to wear Bib No. 29384 and occupy the fourth wave, third corral in Hopkinton on April 21. No doubt his Engine 33 comrades will run with heavy hearts that day.

It would not have been Kennedy’s first Boston – he ran in 2009 and ’10. But like so many others who were profoundly affected by last year’s tragedy, I can only assume he felt a need to be a part of a special edition of an already special event.

Just like me.

Like I wrote in an earlier post, there are no guarantees you’ll even get to the starting line, let alone finish. All you can ask for is the opportunity.

Michael Kennedy won’t get the chance to toe the line in Hopkinton next month, and Edward Walsh won’t get the chance to see his kids graduate, let alone attend middle school.

April 21 is coming fast. If I’m healthy and able to arrive in Hopkinton that morning for this historic run, I’ll consider myself fortunate.




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