July 14, 1989. I stood on the edge of the Champs-Elysees and watched rows of military planes rumble overhead, the last bombers flying low and slow, and then Mitterrand standing in a jeep looking sternly ahead, the masthead of France on parade.
This morning I stand on Capitol Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut, among thousands of other runners, bookended by the Supreme Court and the Capitol. Next to me stands a bear ten-feet tall. I don’t know anyone but I know nearly everyone is from the area; the Hartford Marathon, Half, and Five K are local races.
We are celebratory. The Governor’s Guard stands by. Police line the street. But this is no military parade: this is a people’s parade.
The streets are closed to traffic and open to us. We will parade down Main Street, turn down Park, run through West Hartford, Elizabeth Park, return to downtown Hartford and run through the Soldiers’ Memorial Arch. The aid stations in each neighborhood are manned by the people of each neighborhood. Always there are children extending their hands to runners for a high five.
They play their music for us: Caribbean to Classic Rock to Country to House. Returning downtown, a man plays a metal Caribbean drum.
It is a race. It is not a race. It is a line of thread that stitches together our neighborhoods. We have no bombers flying low and slow above, no president as our masthead.
Instead, we are our own Air Force and our own masthead. We rumble. People cheer for us and we cheer for them. A Saturday morning in October.