Theo Epstein heard from his twin brother Paul after he finished the Boston Marathon – about 45 minutes before the explosions shook Boylston Street.
The Cubs president was in the draft room for midpoint scouting meetings on Monday when someone saw a news flash on Twitter about the terrorist attacks that would kill at least three people and leave almost 200 injured. With cell phones down, it took the Epstein brothers about 20 anxious minutes before they reconnected.
Epstein will never forget the surreal images of his hometown looking like a war zone.
“The city’s really shaken, but it’s extremely resilient with lots of tough people and we’ll definitely get through it,” Epstein said. “It’s just almost impossible to process something like that. It’s just such a special day in Boston, too. The thing about the marathon is just about everyone there was either waiting for a loved one or a friend or there to cheer on and support a stranger.
“And then to have someone try to kill and hurt strangers doesn’t make sense. It’s amazing that human beings are capable of both those extremes.”
The day after, the Cubs had their security teams on high alert at Wrigley Field, reinforcing Major League Baseball’s post-9/11 measures, stepping up the neighborhood police presence and posting a canine unit outside the stadium.
The Cubs flew the American flag at half-staff, observed a moment of silence and played “Sweet Caroline,” an anthem for Red Sox Nation, in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers.
Epstein used to live about a block away from the finish line, where smoke billowed out across the Back Bay neighborhood and whipped the flags representing runners from around the world.
Epstein’s life can be traced along the 26.2-mile route that winds near Fenway Park through Kenmore Square and the famous CITGO sign. He grew up in Brookline and remembered cheering on his mother and her twin sister while they ran the marathon. He later moved his own young family to a neighborhood not far from Heartbreak Hill.
To support his brother, the Red Sox general manager would sneak out of Fenway Park around the seventh inning, pull down his hat and hide out while waiting to give him a high-five before the stretch run.
Patriots Day is one of those hard-to-describe, only-in-Boston experiences. It’s a Massachusetts state holiday/family reunion/frat party/street fest/sporting event commemorating the start of the American Revolution and the battles of Lexington and Concord.
“It’s kind of the best day in the city,” said Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, who helped build those two World Series winners in Boston. “Everyone has off work. Everyone runs out of the Red Sox game and goes right to the race and watches the (finish). Then there’s usually tons of parties and gatherings at night. Everyone really has a great time and lives it up.
“Hopefully, you win your game in the morning and you bolt out of the office and run over to the race and you have a really fun night. And it’s just horrible that was ruined.
“Seeing the blood on the ground outside buildings that you walked past every day is really hard.”
Manager Dale Sveum – who as a Red Sox coach watched New England celebrate after reversing the curse in 2004 – compared Patriots Day to Boston’s own Fourth of July.
“For something to go wrong (right) there in the heart of the city,” Sveum said, “your hearts go out to all the victims and the families that (will) be recovering from some awful, horrific things. It’s just one of those things where we’re kind of right back to 9/11 (again) as far as security in this country.”
Roughly 24 hours later, the shock hadn’t worn off yet. Epstein thought of the first responders running toward the bombings and what he learned about the city he loves.
“I know Boston’s tough enough to get through it,” he said.