Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. the crowds outside Faneuil Hall that lined the street earlier 8 in the day had dispersed. The line, that once stretched down Congress Street, was slim. All day thousands had braved the cold, rain, sleet and snow and waited hours to say goodbye to the man they loved and respected.
I waited a mere 10 minutes. It was too short. I wished I had more time to prepare for the scene inside the hall where I had seen him deliver numerous State of the City speeches. There was no more fanfare. No more waiting for him to make the grand entrance to deliver his vision for the city’s future and reflect on its past. No more applause and standing ovations as the crowd hung on every word and reflected on every sentence.
It was here that he gave those speeches. It was here I witnessed him give it all up and say he would not seek another term as mayor. It was here, with violins playing softly in the background, that it all ended for Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
With an honor guard keeping a watchful eye on the casket, Mayor Menino, Boston’s longest serving mayor lay in state. He was at peace after serving 20 years as the last of the big city bosses. He had broken a mold, a mold that belonged to him and him only. On this cold November night while climbing the steps to the great hall where he lay silent and motionless there was a painful realization that there would never be another Mayor Menino.
As people filed by to pay there last respects there were the sounds of choked back emotion from the people ahead. Some that may have never met him but loved him just the same. His body, once the political force that commanded love from his allies and fear from his enemies was fragile and small. He was too big in his life for the casket in which he was placed. Too big of a person to be silent. Too big of a heart to be no more. He was Boston and Boston was him. He was everything to every neighborhood. From Hyde Park to the North End. From South Boston to the Back Bay, Mayor Menino knew every corner, every school, every restaurant, every shop, every shop keeper, every development, every community activist and every issue that impacted the citizens of the city.
In April 2013, with an approval rating of over 70 percent and a better than 50 percent chance of beating any opponent that dared run against him, Menino, the only mayor a majority of Bostonians have ever known, gracefully bowed out of running for another term.
In one sentence, “I will leave the job that I love” Menino changed the course of Boston politics forever.
The self-proclaimed urban mechanics strength over the past two decades was his ability to be everywhere in Boston. Over half of Boston residents said they have personally met the mayor and in neighborhoods across the city, Menino was a regular fixture at community events, schools, and ribbon cuttings and on hand to give his stamp of approval on development projects.
At the time, his reason for leaving after being plagued by medical issues was, that he was back to a Mayor schedule, but not a Menino schedule.
In his last few months as Mayor he said he missed hitting every event, ribbon cuttings, new homeowner dinners, school plays, and chance meetings with residents. Spending so much time in the neighborhoods gave him energy.
“It may not be the only way to lead Boston, but it’s the only way for me,” he said.
Now I passed by the man who lead this city and led it so well for so long.
I stood saying a final prayer for Mayor Menino but before I left Angela Menino took me aside and said, “he had a lot of good times with you. You were special to him”.
It was at that moment the enormity of Mayor Menino’s death hit me.
We all had good times with him and every citizen of Boston was special. We all were part of a great life and a great man. Boston pushed him to be a great mayor and he pushed us to be greater and kinder citizens of Boston. That’s what made him special.
John Lynds is a reporter for the East Boston Times.