I was born and raised in Baltimore City, and while it isn’t where I currently live, it will always be my home. This past week, my home has been rocked with violence that broke out by a few bad apples during the mostly peaceful protests in support of Freddie Gray. On TV, the situation has been surreal. I have literally watched my city burn, receive a beating and endure several nights of destruction that I think will be etched in my mind forever.
Some people took advantage of the situation and used it as a chance to loot, destroy, hurt and cause major havoc in the community. With TV cameras rolling, they played up their activity, seeking out attention like small children. Not only did they destroy police cars, but they looted stores in the downtown area, set fire to things and even went so far as to puncture the fire fighters’ hoses that were putting out some of the fires.
In all of this, I sat in my house in the Cayman Islands, desperate for a way to show support for my hometown. I saw the images, I watched the footage, I read the tweets about what was going on, near tears because I was so disconnected from the situation; I felt impotent to help in anyway. My heart was breaking to see my city, my beloved Baltimore, hurt so much. And all I wanted to do was help, but I couldn’t. I simply live too far away.
So I did what I could; I went for a run. It’s not much, it doesn’t do anything to help the cleanup effort in Baltimore, it doesn’t mean anything really. But for me, it was one way that I could take time to meditate on and pray for the city, for the people, for the situation. As I said in another post, my runs are my prayers. Every step has a purpose and I want to send that energy to Baltimore. So I dedicated my 6.5 mi to Charm City, her people and the effort to unite in the face of division. My prayers are that she can find a way to discuss rationally real solutions to the problems. That there can be actual change that will help to heal the scars from this week. That the people there are strong enough to experience the humanity, and while they not necessarily agree on everything, they see that we have more in common than we have as differences. I made a promise that I would do what I could when I visit–from participating in a volunteer activity to handing out something to homeless people on the streets. I want to be part of the solution, to show people that I will never see again that I do care. Because we are all Baltimoreans. We bleed Orange and Purple. We yell ‘O’ during the Star Spangled Banner. We know our city has problems, but we love it anyway and are proud to be from there.
My Baltimore is about the small neighborhoods, going to Orioles games on 33rd Street (then later at Camden Yards), waiting in line to see the Aquarium when it first opened in 1981, getting a snowball on a hot summer day and talking to the many other people in line. My Baltimore is participating in the community activities–like I did when I was 8 years old and had my picture taken with then Mayor
Shaffer. My Baltimore is one that welcomed me back last October when I ran the half marathon–lined with people cheering the runners on, providing gummies and orange slices, wine tables and shots of Natty Boh. That was the Baltimore I love and cherish. The one that I am familiar with.
So Baltimore, this run was for you. And I promise to keep you in my prayers, too. When I run in Harper’s Ferry on May 9th or DC on October 25th, I will be dedicating miles to you, to your healing, to your resilience and to your strength. I miss you and I love you.
Eventually the National Guard was called out to help calm the city, and a curfew was enforced, which actually did a great deal to help promote calm in the streets. It’s not over yet, that is for sure, but at least there is a movement towards calm, rational discussion over very serious issues that plague the city. And every now and then, in all the tragic, frightening, war-zone type images, I would see a photo that embodied hope. Pictures of citizens protecting the police. A young boy handing an officer a bottle of water. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra proving a free concert outdoors to bring the power and healing of music to the city. This is the Baltimore I know. These are the people that while I don’t know, I love. Because Baltimore is the people. And they are great people. So yes, Baltimore, I will run for you. You are in my thoughts.