Hollywood may claim Matt Damon as one of its own now, but his childhood will always belong to the city of Boston and its surrounding areas. Long before the actor ever set foot on a film set, he made his place among the rabid sports fans at Fenway Park, the Boston Garden, and Heartbreak Hill on Commonwealth Avenue, where he and his brother, Kyle, watched their father, Kent, run the Boston Marathon. In an essay published in the Boston Globe on Sunday, April 14 -- one day before the horrific attacks that killed three at this year's event -- Damon waxed nostalgic about what the race means to him.
The piece, excerpted from a new book, The B.A.A. At 125: The Official History of the Boston Athletic Association, describes the Promised Land star's earliest memories of the marathon, which he calls "a sporting spectacle like no other, overwrought with nerves and excitement."
"I'll never forget standing there in the crowd with my brother, Kyle, as we looked first for [famed marathoner] Bill Rodgers, and then, in the very same race as some of the most talented runners on earth, our smiling (and grimacing) 40-year-old dad," he says. Later, he tells of how Kyle followed in their father's footsteps and joined the festivities as an athlete, leaving his own sons to watch from the sidelines.
"To this day both my father and brother have their bib numbers archived with their most prized possessions and describe their experiences as some of the most emotional moments of their lives," he writes. Of the varying participants in the race, he says: "These people are champions."
Those words have taken on a new poignancy in the wake of the Boston attacks on Monday, April 15. Following the explosions, the Bourne Identity star, 42, released a statement to Entertainment Weekly in which he expressed his condolences for the victims in his beloved hometown.
"My heart goes out to the people of the city of Boston," he said. "My thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost loved ones in such a senseless and heartless way."
Damon wasn't the only Massachusetts native who spoke out in support of Bostonians. "I just ask everyone to please pray for all the people in Boston and their families, and especially the Richards family," hometown hero Mark Wahlberg said on Jimmy Kimmel Live. (The actor was referring to the relatives of 8-year-old Martin Richards, who was killed by the explosion.)
"The world obviously needs to change," he told Us after the attacks. "If you think about all the events over the last couple years, if we can't protect our innocent women and children, then we have a serious problem."