4 Years Later: How the ‘Boston Strong’ Season Helped Me Find My Strength

On Friday, we celebrated the 13th anniversary of the 2004 World Series. Today is the 4th anniversary of the 2013 championship. It’s kind of like when all your family members have birthdays in the same month and you just keep celebrating. October is special in Boston, and I’m definitely biased, but these World Series wins rank among the most important in baseball history.

For me, personally, the 2013 season was incredibly meaningful, but to understand why, I have to go back to 2012. In June 2012, I came home for what would turn out to be the worst summer of my life. Not because Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox were a disaster. Not because Johnny Pesky passed away and almost no one attended his funeral. Not because Fenway Park turned 100 and the Sox honored that by finishing dead last.

In June, the week of my 19th birthday, my father almost died while I lay on the floor crying in the next room, waiting for paramedics to come. It was the most terrifying day of my entire life. My father has been sick since before I was born, but this particular episode changed me forever.

The rest of the summer is a blur of hospitals, doctors, and a lot of crying and yelling. My family felt broken. I was depressed, anxious, suffering from insomnia, and diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I went back to Columbia for the fall semester, but ultimately decided I needed a break. You don’t do very well in college if you never sleep and are afraid to be away from your parents for more than an hour. I came home for winter break and never went back. I took a semester off, and went to a lot of therapy. I spent time with my family and focused on them and myself.

And then on April 15, 2013, everything changed again. Two evil boys set off bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing and injuring hundreds. They tried to destroy a cherished Massachusetts holiday. They turned Boston, my home of nineteen years, the place I’d returned to in order to feel safe again, into a place of heartbreak and fear for me and everyone there. After all the progress I’d made to get healthy, I was terrified to be in the place I loved most. I was so mad at these terrorists, but I was also angry with myself; I felt weak.

If this article does nothing else for you, let it at least show you why I love David Ortiz so much. When he stood on the field during the first home game back and spoke the now-immortal words, “This is our fucking city, and ain’t nobody going to dictate our freedom,” I lost my mind. In that moment, our most clutch hitter became a true hero. They might have only been words – we didn’t know yet how incredible his 2013 performance would be – but they were the first little bit of glue mending my shattered heart.

While the Red Sox spent the summer brightening my days, I began to think about going back to school. I didn’t want to return to New York, and I also knew that if I transferred, I’d almost definitely not be able to do a semester abroad, something I’d always wanted to do. I also knew that I wanted to stay in Boston for the remainder of college, so I decided to go abroad first. I didn’t want to get complacent or be scared to be on my own. So I decided to move halfway around the world, throwing myself in the proverbial deep-end of self-discovery and recovery.

I moved to Israel in September. I’d lived there as a kid with my family, and we spent many long vacations there, so even though I was going far away, I was going to my second home, where I spoke the language and had family and friends. But I was twenty years old, on the other side of the world. I was farther away from my family than I’d been in years, and I was at a new school again, Tel Aviv University.

This time, school was good. I made friends quickly and I fell in love. I explored, partied, studied a little, and had fun. Most days, I was okay, verging on happy. Through it all, I watched Red Sox games. For some reason, our dorm apartments had TVs that actually got American baseball, and the benefit of my insomnia was that I could enjoy Red Sox games despite the 7-hour time difference.

Almost immediately after I moved, the Red Sox began their postseason. They’d finished the 2013 regular season at 97–65, the best record in the American League. Throughout the season, everything was “Boston Strong,” “617 Strong,” and “do it for the Marathon victims.” It warmed my heart to see a team that had seemed so apathetic a year before now playing their hearts out for us. They were making more money than most people to be where they were, but I knew it was about more than money for them. They were fighting for us.

I watched every postseason game, sometimes staying up until 5 or 6 AM. I cried a lot; it was a very emotional time. I still remember after we lost the first game of the ALCS to the Tigers. My roommate, who at that point had only known me for about a week, came home to find me crying on my bed, binge-eating pita and hummus, watching the 2004 DVD. When she reminded me that one game wasn’t the end of the world, I remained inconsolable. I couldn’t bear to think of the possible scenario in which we wouldn’t win it all.

Finally, it was Game 6 of the World Series. MVP David Ortiz was hitting an absolutely astronomical .733, which would sink down to a still-unreal .688 after the Cardinals pitchers gave up trying to pitch to him and simply walked and intent-walked him the entirety of the final game. My roommate, who is now my best friend despite being a Yankees fan, actually watched the first few innings with me until around 2 AM. I don’t think I breathed the entire game. When Koji threw that final out, the sun was rising in my bedroom in Tel Aviv. I screamed and burst into tears. I watched Fenway Park erupt in celebration, the first World Series win at home since 1918. In that moment, I felt pure, absolute joy for the first time in what felt like forever; I was healed.

On this day, four years later, I can look back on that time in my life and be proud. The darkest moments, the hardest fight I’ve ever fought, I made it through all of it. I’m so incredibly grateful to my friends and family, to Boston, and to the Red Sox. To say that the 2013 season meant everything to me is an understatement.

Tomorrow night’s World Series game might be such a game for the Houston Astros. So to the people of Texas and the Astros, from the bottom of my heart, I say, good luck. I see how hard you’ve been fighting, and I’m rooting for you. I know firsthand how healing a victory like this is. Our “Strong” season showed me how to be strong again when I never thought I would be.

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