The emotions had been boiling all week.
A five-day stretch that had been frantic and unsettling had come to an end. So had the search for the suspected perpetrators of the bombings that shook the city not even a week ago.
Looking out at the faces in the crowd, people who had come to Fenway Park to escape, to celebrate, and recapture some of the normalcy they had lost, David Ortiz felt what they were feeling.
“This past week, I don’t think there was one human being who wasn’t affected by what we got going on down here,” Ortiz said. “This past week for me, myself, I was very emotional and angry about whole situation and got to get that out of my chest and make sure our fans and everyone in the nation knows that this is a great nation and part of it was supporting each other when everything went down.”
At the end of the ceremony that preceded the Red Sox’ 4-3 win over Kansas City, Ortiz’s microphone was hot and his words were clear:
“This is our [expletive] city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”
He later apologized for the swear, but not the sentiment. But in the wake of incomprehensible terror, the words were forceful, defiant, and proud.
“I’m from the Dominican Republic and the one thing that I always say is me and my family are blessed by being in this country,’’ Ortiz said. “And I love this country and I would do anything for this country. Everybody was one unit and that’s what matters.”
Preaching the mantra “Boston Strong,” the Red Sox took the first steps in helping an embattled city to heal. The team’s support added to the solidarity the city had shown all week in the face of tragedy.
Governor Deval Patrick said, “The response of the people in the crowd in the stadium has been the response of people all over the Commonwealth all week and, frankly, all over the world.”
Over the course of the pregame ceremony, emotions swung from moment to moment.
A montage played on the outfield scoreboards, image after powerful image.
“That video was pretty moving,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “When you consider all that has transpired from the celebration of someone finishing a marathon to the devastation that followed that to all the video, if you watched TV the last 36 hours, I think it was all captured in that five-minute video.”
Marathon volunteers lined the Green Monster in front of an American flag as wide as the 231-foot long wall.
Ken Shiff and his wife Beth were both starting-line volunteers. They spent the morning of the marathon meeting the elite athletes, talking with runners. Once they were done, they went to the finish line to cheer their friends.
“And then the whole world changed on us,” Ken said.
Standing against that wall, they said they felt unified.
“It’s so important,” said Ken, 59, a Methuen native. “We’ve been through hell and back to get through this week. And just to come here and be united with all these people who have the same feelings that we have and to know that it’s all over and it’s all safe again . . . ”
Beth, 60, his wife of 37 years, finished his sentence, “It was just amazing.”
The Royals and Red Sox stood shoulder to shoulder along the foul lines.
“Guys were fighting back tears on the line,” said Sox reliever Andrew Bailey. “I’ve never been a part of something like that.”
For the national anthem, the crowd of 35,152 became a choir, singing all together.
The field was flooded with the faces they had seen endlessly on television over the past four days. Patrick, Boston Police commissioner Edward Davis, and FBI special agent Richard DesLauriers. They joined marathoners Rick Hoyt and his father Dick, longtime symbols of the sacrifice and resilience, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch along with off-duty firefighter Matt Patterson and bombing victim Steven Byrne.
Thinking about pitching was almost impossible for starter Clay Buchholz with everything unfolding in front of him.
“I don’t think I would’ve been able to watch it and pitch at the same time,” he said. “That was my frame of mind going in. That’s the part that I wanted to get through.
One minute everyone in the ballpark was silent, remembering the victims. The next they were applauding the heroes in front of them on the field.
“Then a baseball game breaks out,” Jonny Gomes said.
To be able to play, the day after a manhunt left the city all but frozen, was a statement in itself. The scene at Fenway Park on Friday was surreal.
“It was just weird to look out the window and not see any action, not see any cars, see any people,” third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. “It was like a ghost town. Everyone was on lockdown. It was pretty scary to know I was a couple miles away. I’m just happy it’s over.”
There were signs of change.
Security was heightened. Earlier in the day, police dogs checked the ballpark. Officers in bright yellow jackets seemed to be at every turn. Fans were wanded down at the entrances.
But there were signs that the day obviously meant more.
It took a 4:30 a.m. flight for Neil Diamond to make it to Boston from Los Angeles. Then, he called into the main Fenway Park switchboard and asked if he could sing “Sweet Caroline.” The crowd was his choir.
As much as it meant to come away with the win, everyone understood that there was a bigger victory in just being there.
“I wanted to win this game today badly,” Ortiz said. “I’ve had a lot of great moments and emotional situations. Today was different. We had never been through what we went through the past week.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.