Photo by Katie Beth Clark taken moments before the blasts
In an empty real estate office on Boylston Street, dozens of homemade calzones sit uneaten, and slices of pizza — now spoiled — lay near half-empty juice boxes and soda cans scattered across the floor. This may not be the most iconic image to come out of the Boston Marathon bombings, but it’s a still-life snapshot of the chaos that erupted from a celebration so profoundly American, it has its roots in the Revolutionary War.
Every year on Patriot’s Day, the Charlesgate Realty Group holds an “open house” party for friends, family, and clients to commemorate the holiday and watch the marathon runners as they charge toward the finish line. Every year they gather to observe the triumphant athletes; every year they await those famous calzones.
But this was not every year.
“In the blink of an eye, we had to clear the whole party out,” says P.T. Vineburgh, founding partner of Charlesgate. Vineburgh felt a first then second explosion — the second less than half a block away — and saw a panicked crowd fleeing the street.
Immediately, he knew something wasn’t right. “With two explosions, I thought it was way too coincidental for it to be gas lines,” Vineburgh says. “I told everyone to leave through the back door.”
When the group was outside, all accounted for and safe, Vineburgh noted how brightly the sun was shining, a strange moment of darkness meeting light. “It was pushing 60 degrees and really our first taste of spring,” he says. “And that’s exactly how it should have been; this was supposed to be the quintessential Boston family day.”
Though he’s not even sure when he’ll regain access to his office — located inside the restricted crime scene — Vineburgh is certain the city will revive itself with full vigor, and soon.
“The year the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, there were a million people at the parade,” he says. “You’ll see that times 10 because this isn’t sports; this is real life.”
Other local REALTORS® agree, and association leadership is sending a message of support and strength to the down —but by no means out — community. “We Bostonians, we’re resilient, and I have no doubt we’ll get back out there and do our thing,” says Joe Schutt, YPN chair of the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, adding that the concern and help pouring in from across the country has been overwhelming. In an instant, hundred-year-old baseball rivalries vanished, much like a well-hit ball sailing over the Green Monster’s 37-foot wall at Fenway Park.
“When something happens on American soil, our country pulls together,” says Schutt, also broker/owner of Unit Realty Group in Back Bay, Mass. “We may have these rivalries, but in the end, we’re really one America.”
The solidarity is good news for the REALTORS® of Massachusetts, especially with at least one member of MAR seriously wounded, and others still shaken up from the events of the day.
“I thought something was falling from the sky,” says Katie Beth Clark, a REALTOR® in Brookline, Mass., who was standing near the finish line when the bombs went off. “I heard the noise and saw people hitting the ground; I just started bawling.”
And to all those affected in the real estate community, they should know they aren’t alone.
“We’re here to stand behind anyone and everyone,” Schutt says. “We’re prepared to do everything we can.”
But this benevolence and loyalty is nothing new, in fact, it’s symptomatic of the job. “The REALTOR® family is strong,” says Marilyn Jarvis, President of the Certified Residential Specialists’ Massachusetts Chapter. “We may be fierce competitors when sitting across the table from one another, but if something comes up, we rally together like nothing else.”
Jarvis, whose partner of 15 years is an amputee due to health-related reasons, has already set up a fund for those wishing to donate to the bombing victims. It’s a deeply personal effort coming from someone who understands the dire consequences of losing a limb.
“I truly know what some of these people have ahead of them,” Jarvis says. “From the smallest to the biggest of details, their lives will be different, but we’re going to be there to give them our help.”
With calls coming in from around the nation, Jarvis is confident the fledgling program will become a success; and a much needed monetary source for those unaware of the challenges ahead. “You can’t go out to dinner the same way again,” she says. “How do you drive a car? Who will walk your dog? It’s the little, everyday things that will affect them most.”
For these victims — and a city — in need of mending, it seems the restoration has already begun. “Boston is full of strong, prideful people,” Vineburgh says, recalling how “eerily quiet” the town was the night of the bombings. Now as routine, rejuvenation, and the revelry characteristic of Boston returns, residents like Vineburgh look to brighter days ahead. His office may be inaccessible and full of cold calzones, but he’s already planning on another marathon-watching party next year, “without a doubt!”