Governor Deval L. Patrick
Massachusetts Bar Association Annual Dinner
Westin Waterfront
Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thank you, Bob, for that warm welcome. 

Mr. Chief Justice and Members of the Judiciary,

Mr. Speaker, Chairman Dempsey and Members of the Legislature,

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, and brothers and sisters at the Bar:

Thank you for having me tonight.

My congratulations to each of tonight’s deserving honorees.

This night is theirs.  So, I will endeavor to be brief.

The horrific events of Marathon Monday brought such tragedy and devastation - the deaths of three innocents from the blasts and of an MIT police officer five days later; the brutal and in some cases profound injury of hundreds of others; the shock to us all.  The senselessness of it all, even now, is hard to absorb.

And yet in some ways Marathon Monday and the days following brought out the best in our community:  the EMTs, volunteers and bystanders who rushed to aid and comfort the victims; the medical professionals who made the world’s best care better and lost not one patient who made it to hospital; the law enforcement team -- federal, state and local -- and the National Guard who committed to resolving this crime and doing so collaboratively.

The everyday people who, in their own private ways, showed repeated acts of kindness, compassion and courage. 

When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s on the South Side of Chicago, there was a lot we didn’t have.  But one thing we did have was a strong sense of community.  Because that was a time when every child was under the jurisdiction of every adult on the block.  If you messed up down the street in front of Ms. Jones, she would straighten you out as if you were hers -- and then call home, so you’d get it twice. 

What those adults were trying to get across to us was that they had a stake in us.  And that membership in a community is understanding the stake that each of us has in our neighbor’s dreams and struggles as well as our own. 

Community, in this same sense, is what John Adams wrote about in the famous preamble to our Commonwealth’s constitution:

“The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals,” he wrote.  “[I]t is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good.”

The common good.  The Commonwealth.  Community.  Out of the dust of tragedy, the spirit of community emerged.  It might just have been our finest hour because we showed the world -- and each other -- that nothing can defeat that spirit. 

Events like the marathon bombings also test our commitment to the rule of law.  After all, Adams did not posit that anything goes if done for the common good.  He wrote that we agree to be “governed by certain laws for the common good.”

Asking people to stay indoors on that fateful Friday, April 19, while police in at least one neighborhood searched door to door, was no simple decision especially for someone who has spent much of his professional life litigating the limits of government power.  I think we made the right decision, but it wasn’t easy.

When I went to bed late that Thursday, I was bone tired.  We had had a week of crisis, followed by the ordered chaos, if there is such a thing, of launching the investigation.  I had visited volunteers and hospital workers to offer encouragement and thanks, victims to offer comfort, and the families of the dead to offer condolences.  The media at the time, dedicated to filling air time even when there was no news, can only be described as crazy.  The interfaith service, from start to finish, was healing, but also draining.  The investigation itself, which had come to focus on two suspects, soon to be known as “Black Hat” and “White Hat,” had turned to the review of thousands of photographs and videos collected from scores of individual and commercial sources.  The best thing for me to do then was to stay out of the way.  After a quiet supper with my wife and daughter, I fell into bed.

At 1:00 a.m., the first call came from my team.  There had just been a shoot-out in Watertown with the bombing suspects.  Explosives had been deployed at the scene.  One suspect was down and the other was in flight.  He was considered armed and extremely dangerous.  I received hourly updates through the rest of the night as law enforcement created a perimeter around the neighborhood and prepared to search door to door at daylight. 

In a pre-dawn conference call I was asked to suspend T service through Watertown and to ask residents in the neighborhood to “shelter in place.”The reasons for this were two-fold: to prevent flight and to keep people safe while the door-to-door search of that neighborhood was conducted. 

By the time of the press conference that morning, we had reports of related developments in the Fenway and South Station.  So, we decided to extend the “shelter in place” request to all of Boston.  And because it is nearly impossible surgically to suspend service on the T in or out of an area that includes the City of Boston, we suspended the entire system. 

It was an interesting and tense moment.  I did not order people off the street, I asked them to stay indoors.  It was not an indefinite request, but one that was pending the completion of the door-to-door search.  I asked people to help us help them stay safe.  And by and large, and to great effect, they did.  I didn’t have to order anybody to do anything and I didn’t have to govern through fear.  I governed, I hope, through a sense of shared community and common cause.

When Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found in that boat later that Friday evening, hundreds of heavily-armed police officers rushed to the immediate area.  Monitoring the scene from the command post, I could tell that everyone’s adrenaline was pumping, maybe most especially the officers on the immediate scene.  One state trooper described it vividly to me afterwards when he said that “any one of us would gladly have put a bullet into White Hat, and yet, he said, when ordered to hold their fire, they did.  And when White Hat was apprehended, and the EMTs placed him on a gurney and wheeled him past those throngs of armed and agitated police, that same state trooper said, not one officer showed the least lack of restraint.  Everybody respected the rules.  And there is a special strength in that.

Someone someday, once we have some perspective on it all, will write the story of the Marathon bombings – what lessons we learned, what we knew or should have known in advance, and what difference it should, could or might have made.  For now, I just want to say that I’m glad for the professionalism and restraint of law enforcement; I’m glad Tsarnaev, an American citizen accused of a horrible crime, is being tried in an American court before an Article III judge; and I’m glad that our sense of community made it unnecessary to order anybody to help us help them.  Indeed, I’m more than glad.  I’m proud because in many ways the system worked and we showed the world (and ourselves) what civilization looks like.

Thank you.