I had a lovely lunch at a great sushi place last week with a Limited Partner to whom I’d just become acquainted, nothing unusual there – except that the place is just a few runners strides from the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It was barely two days after the massacre in my city. And just feet from us were a mob of live satellite trucks and a gang of media lined up cheek by jowl speaking into microphones with cameras trained on their faces, the background eerily quiet and barren. It was certainly strange seeing such a large and vibrant part of the city, some 15 blocks of Copley Square in the Back Bay cordoned off with an army of men and women wearing camo, carrying carbines and what felt like hundreds of others in white environmental suits clawing through every inch of the city’s streets and rooftop. The juxtaposition of my lunch and the sad events of hours earlier should have been alarming. It felt rather normal, calming, and even necessary.
My new LP friend suggested we meet and support a neighborhood place that surely was bereft of business with such a wide swath of the city shut down and pall cast among patrons in the city. We bantered with the server, asking “how is business” despite it being abundantly clear by the near empty place that should have been bustling at noon on a work day. Our server answered that business was “dead”. Odd word usage considering the circumstances of the day. I know… I used to work in the restaurant biz and the phrase is always used to quite accurately describe the state of business at that moment in time. Nonetheless, it was a bit jarring.
On the day after our lunch the President would be arriving nearby to speak at an interfaith service, thank volunteers, medical staff, and first responders. He would comfort survivors in the hospitals scattered across Boston. Boston is a living city. That word, “living” should sound as strange as our server’s description of business. It did not. The city quite literally founded America. It is North America’s most European city – in architecture and attitude. Now it has taken on even more of a kinship as it suffers the senseless horrors of mad bombings similar to Madrid and London. I have personally experienced the atrocity of a terrorist bombing that leveled my hotel in Northern Ireland and have seen cars exploding in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I never imagined such events would visit home. One world indeed.
Our working lunch was full of business challenge, intellectual questioning, a bit of fun, a comparative of cities we’d lived and worked in, and discussions of family history. Other than the initial interaction with our server we didn’t discuss or even intimate the existence of the horrid events displayed on every headline around the globe or the ongoing investigation just a few steps away. It was unnecessary. Neither of us forgot it. We just needed to march on – for our own sake and the city’s.
Barely a day and half after that lunch the entire city and three neighboring cities were in lockdown – not just a dozen+ blocks – through a long evening and into the next watching a manhunt for the final suspect brother who had perpetrated the cowardly acts of blowing up the Boston Marathon. Within minutes of the brother being found there was another explosion – of relief, of thankfulness, of appreciation for the work of police and the remembered acts of heroism by the nurses, doctors and EMT’s, firefighters and police, volunteers and spectators who made things better because they were acting entirely normal at the time of the greatest need. They were simply doing their jobs.
On the very next day my family journeyed back to the site of the Marathon finishing line to pay personal honor at the roadside memorials littered with notes of condolence, of awe and appreciation. Now it is time for all us to honor them and go about doing our own unglamorous and comparatively unimportant jobs. We are, in our own small way, responsible for a return to a new normalcy. Boston is a living city – made more strongly vibrant by ever remembering but somehow still casting aside the terror that visited her this third Monday of April.
After the horrific events of this past week, our prayers go out to all of the victims, volunteers, medical staff and those who responded and stayed diligent to the end in finding those responsible. I would like to take this opportunity to suggest sending a donation to the One Fund Boston. Information can be found by visiting the One Fund website at http://onefundboston.org/ .
Mark S. DiSalvo is the President and CEO of Sema4 Inc., dba Semaphore (www.sema4usa.com), a leading global professional services provider of Private Equity and Venture Capital funds under management and diligence services. Semaphore currently holds fiduciary obligations as General Partner for six Private Equity and Venture Capital funds, is a New Markets Tax Credit lender and advises General and Limited Partners as well as corporations around the world. Semaphore’s corporate offices are in Boston with principal offices in New York, London and Dallas.