A terrible thing happened here Wednesday, and for the world, it was terribly difficult to watch. For those who actually live here, it was even worse. Because it happened in our own backyard, in a place where major events often take place but rarely produce the kind of anger and sadness this event did.
And watching it unfold on television, I couldn’t help but think about the familiar location it was all taking place in. We all know it, because we’ve all been there many times. And not that long ago, we all gathered there for something far more joyous.
So today, on the morning after the upsetting event that took place in that section of our city, I want to think back to the wonderful event that took place right there only 14 months ago: The Nationals’ World Series victory parade.
My god, has it really only been 14 months? Why does it feel so much more distant now?
I’ll never forget boarding a Metro train that morning to make my way into the city. The train was packed, and it was packed with people wearing Nationals gear. Caps and jerseys and sweatshirts and jackets. Some bearing the club’s original logo and wordmark from 15 years earlier, some bearing the brand-new World Series champions logo.
Everybody was in a good mood. It was impossible not to be.
Once we arrived in the District and started making the walk toward the parade route, it became clear just how many people were gathering there. It was overwhelming, certainly the largest gathering of Nationals fans that has ever been in one place at one time.
Think about it this way: Even at Games 3, 4 and 5 of the World Series, there couldn’t have been more than 45,000 fans inside Nationals Park and another few thousand in the streets outside the park.
We never got an official crowd estimate for the parade, but it’s safe to say it numbered in the hundreds of thousands, not tens of thousands. The entire parade route was lined on both sides of the street dozens deep, even more in certain strategic locations where fans had a raised vantage point and thus could watch from a bit more distance.
And though the stage area where the post-parade rally was held was in a bit of an awkwardly tight corner, there were plenty more fans there watching the players, manager and team executives speak to cap off the day.
This all took place, mind you, at 3rd Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue. Three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, which was perfectly framed as the backdrop behind the stage.
It was a glorious day - at times celebratory, at times hilarious, at times emotional.
And everyone shared the same emotions throughout. Nobody there objected to the event taking place. No Astros fans tried to crash the party and claim it was illegitimate. No one had any reason to worry about anything.
I heard from so many of you afterward who were so overjoyed to have experienced it. Some never thought they’d live to see the day. Some couldn’t believe they had been so fortunate to attend two D.C. championship parades in the span of 17 months, the Nats’ title coming on the heels of the Capitals’ Stanley Cup victory.
Who among us could have foreseen what would take place on that same stretch of road, in front of that same majestic backdrop, barely more than a year later?
Who among us could have foreseen that the parade would represent the last time Nationals fans would even be allowed to gather en masse until sometime in 2021?
It’s hard to believe everything that has happened since that glorious November day in the nation’s capital. And it may be hard to believe we’ll all have the opportunity to gather again in support of baseball in Washington, but it will happen again.
It won’t feel the same as it did before. So much has changed in the last 14 months. But there will come a day soon when we can finally gather in a large group to celebrate something positive, united behind a common love of baseball in a city that needs to experience some more uplifting days after the sadness we’ve experienced here recently.