Running for Boston was nice, but who’s running for Philly?

    What a scene the Broad Street Run was this year. Tens of thousands of people were wearing red socks or Boston Marathon shirts on Sunday, May 5, or holdings signs or carrying American flags.

    To be clear: I sympathize with the people of Boston, not with terrorists. But the Broad Street Run, for me, has always been and will always be by, for, and all about Philly.

    The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.

    What a scene the Broad Street Run was this year! Tens of thousands of people were wearing red socks or Boston Marathon shirts on Sunday, May 5, or holdings signs or carrying American flags.

    To be clear: I sympathize with the people of Boston, not with terrorists. But the Broad Street Run, for me, has always been and will always be by, for, and all about Philly.

    Because you know what I also think terror is? Trying to shelter, clothe, feed, transport, and educate a family of four on $1,000 a month. About 28 percent of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, according to Philadelphia 2013: The State of the City, published by the Pew Charitable Trusts. That’s more than 430,000 people — 70 percent of the population of Boston.

    You know what else is truly terrifying? Eighty-seven people in this city have been victims of homicide so far this year. By the time you read this, the number will undoubtedly be 30 times the number of people killed in Boston. Over 500 Philadelphians have been injured by gunfire alone, twice the number treated in Boston hospitals after the attack last month.

    Fourteen of the 87 homicide victims died within three blocks of the Broad Street Run.

    Just hours after the finish, two guys were murdered a few blocks from Mile Marker One. A 28-year-old was killed at 7 a.m. the day before the run, just feet from Broad Street on Loudon, in between Charley B’s Lounge and the Latter-Day Saints Church after you go under the railroad trestle near the starting line.

    People who die by gunfire in neighborhoods like Olney and Nicetown will never get elegies like the Boston victims. We don’t know them and we don’t know anything about the circumstances of their lives, and yet we still somehow can’t imagine them as “innocents” — never mind “heroes” — like we think of the Boston marathoners and spectators.

    But neighborhoods in North Philadelphia did not become troubled and dangerous places by accident. They have been bled dry by political decisions — political violence — and nearly a century of intentional public and private disinvestment. The results are etched into the landscape and the lives of the people: the dilapidated housing stock, the loss of a residential tax base to pay for schools, the near-absence of real jobs, no stores carrying any actual food.

    Where would the Loudon Street man have been that morning if a bullet didn’t kill him? What about the two Hunting Park men? Maybe I saw them in the crowd cheering and dancing to “Love Train” in front of the Rite Aid around the corner from where they would be killed a few hours later.

    We Philadelphians are different races and ethnicities and sexual orientations. We’re young and old, fat and skinny, prissy and, yeah, sometimes we’re crass. (My favorite sign of the day read: “If Broad Street was easy, it would be your mom.”) Most days, we stay on our own blocks. We take the same path to work, go to the same pub, the same coffee shop, the same corner store. Most days, if we ran or walked through each others’ turf we’d be met with suspicion.

    But the first Sunday of May, we are thrown together, arm-in-arm. We yell for the same reasons. On May 5, the sun was bouncing off everything, and it felt like 5 million people were out. They were hooting and hollering and twirling noise makers and promising me margaritas and playing indie rock and crappy Doors covers and pumping ’70s Philly Sound out of booming speakers. In every single face I saw our city’s promise, the tremendous power of a critical and diverse mass, what we can do together that we cannot do alone. I felt it in my bones and joints every time my feet hit the sun-drenched pavement.

    If runners and spectators can send all that support all the way to Boston, what could they do for people in the places they ran through and cheered in at the Broad Street Run? We’ve proven Philadelphians have plenty of love. But why do we have so much to spare?

    Dr. Kate Oxx is an assistant professor of religious studies at Saint Joseph’s University.

    Another version of this essay was previously published in the Letters section of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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