"This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before." - Leonard Bernstein
I was getting ready to hit "submit" for my latest Huffington Post piece when I heard about the Boston Marathon bombings. It was late afternoon when I turned on the radio and started rifling through the fridge to get dinner going. The news came through, turning my stomach, I couldn't believe what was being reported. Time seems to stop when heartbreaks like this happen.
My first thought was my family and friends living in Boston, some of who weren't far from where the marathon was happening. Second thought: the horror that all of those participating in the marathon were going through and that fear of not knowing what would be next. Third thought: why do horrific things like this happen? And what the hell can I do?" I'm OK, just so sad and so mad," said Chef Ming Tsai to me by email the day after the bombing. Tsai got together with buddy, Chef/Restaurateur and fellow Bostonian Ken Oringer that day, April 16th. "Two of our chef buddies were directly affected by this tragedy. We had to do something. We couldn't bring anyone back but we needed to heal and so many of us need to heal," explained Tsai. "My boys were asking me if it was safe to go to Disney World, the marathon or a baseball game. The world is forever changed and I am pissed," said Tsai.
Pulling their contacts and friends, the two friends devised a plan for a massive event with the help of the Red Sox, Governor Patrick, Mayor Menino, and ARAMARK to raise $1 Million for The One Fund, to help people most affected by the tragic events of April 15th, 2013. Pulling in 10 key people, 10 days later they had one hundred chef friends rallying (cooking up 60,000 pieces of food), and enough cases of beer, liquor and wine for 5,000 people at Boston Bites Back. "No one said no, they just asked how much," said Tsai. Like so many Bostonians, Ming and Ken felt the pull of violation and the strong desire to heal. "We aren't celebrating, we aren't bringing anyone back, but we are showing the world we are resilient. We aren't cowards."
The two chefs, who are close friends with the owners of the Red Sox, were not only able secure iconic Fenway to host the event, but the ownership, management, and team agreed to open right field, so attendees had the unique chance to sip a glass of wine on the field. "Food is the best healer, food brings people together, food helps people forget," explained Tsai. The silver lining -- first responders were invited to come for free.
There is no answer for terror and violence. All any of us can do is try to be better and find take-action approaches to make bite-sized differences. All any of us can do is to make each moment as stunning and meaningful as we can and focus on what matters. "Traumatic events like the bombings make you reprioritize your life. You think more about living and loving. You appreciate friends, family and community. What happened to so many innocent people wasn't fair, it wasn't right, raising funds to support them and make their life easier and more comfortable so they can sleep at night and take steps to live their lives again is the least we can do as a community," says Amiel Sawadaye, Scouting Director for the Red Sox.
The event on May 15th was nothing less than amazing and raised between $900,000-950,000 for The One Fund with 100 top chefs preparing small bites, amazing sponsors helping support the event, and the Boston community coming together; more than anything it truly showed the power of a community. With chefs at the core, rallied together, connecting through what links all of us together -- food, family, music, and love -- Boston Bites Back was an illustration of what is important in life. "This city is strong, rich in cultural diversity and enrichment, sports and recreation, business and industry. Boston has real heart and we all were affected by the bombings. It is human nature to want to do something to help," said Oringer.
Tragedies like these seem to be occurring more often and make you reflect on what is important in life. People do what they can. "Ming and I know how to cook and have made our life's work feeding people. Knowing that I did something to help families affected by these bombings is important so I can sleep better at night, it is important to me as a father and as a member of my community," explains Oringer. "We all love to eat, there is no better way to show how we are all the same than through food and drink and there was no better place to show the world that we haven't stopped living and that we have bounced back than to come together at Fenway Park."
The One Fund Boston is a single fund to which people can continue to donate to help those families of victims who were killed and the victims who were most seriously affected as a result of the tragic events during the Boston Marathon on April 15th, 2013 and related events on April 18th and April 19th. To date, the fund has collected over $32 million from 50,000 donors and Boston Bites Back. Please consider making a donation here and showing Boston you haven't forgotten. Additionally, Boston Bites Back has teamed up with CharityBuzz.com to offer a unique online auction. The auction will run through May 31st, 2013.