The Boston Celtics' coaching staff was huddled after practice on Marathon Monday last year and an energy filled the room as they began preparations for their first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks.
“We were kind of discussing who we’d be playing in the playoffs,” assistant coach Jamie Young said. “I just remember it being a normal day.”
After the coaches meeting, Young jumped on a treadmill for his typical post-practice run, but when he flicked on the TV, he realized that this day would be anything but normal.
While then-coach Doc Rivers pledged never to use the bombings as motivation for his team, there was an unspoken desire to win in order to help the region cope.
“We never really talked about what we needed to do as a team, but just winning and playing well was something that we thought would be the best way to help,” Young said.
Meanwhile, Leon Powe watched coverage of the bombings with disbelief from 3,000 miles away. Five years earlier he had ridden a duck boat down Boylston Street after helping the Celtics win their first championship in more than two decades. The images from Boston were jarring as he watched the news reports from the opposite coast.
“I was deeply saddened by it. Hurt, mad, angry,” he said.
Powe spent only three years in Boston, but still considers it a second home. Heartbroken by what he saw from afar, he was certain of one thing: Boston would emerge stronger from the tragedy.
“They tried to break our spirit, and tried to break a tradition we have every single year as far as the Marathon,” Powe said. “And I told everyone on the West Coast, that’s not going to break the people’s spirit down there in Boston. They are so strong, and that’s just going to bring us together even more.”
Powe came to Boston earlier this month to represent the Celtics and their 2008 title team at Opening Day ceremonies at Fenway Park. It was also a chance for him to meet many of the survivors of the bombings, an experience that only confirmed what he believed.
“Talking to them, it was a blessing,” Powe said. “Their spirits are up and everything is good.”
Members of the Celtics organization who were here last year beam with pride with how the region responded in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Young plans to be in the middle of this year's event. He was approached about running as part of the Shamrock Foundation marathon team, which will include 15 members of the organization. Each runner committed to raising $5,000 with a goal of raising at least $75,000 for the charities the foundation supports.
Young never envisioned running a marathon, his longest personal run had been a half marathon, but the events of last year encouraged him to go for the full 26.2.
Last weekend, he logged a 20-mile run, doing the final 10 miles of the marathon course, including that trek down Boylston, then turning around and retracing his steps.
He’s never done a marathon, but Young said he's ready. He feels strong -- Boston Strong.