HARTFORD – Let’s say you’ve just run 26 miles, you’re soaking your tired muscles in a hot tub and you get a phone call ordering you to do a terrifying job that will keep you up for 41 hours. Would you be able to perform the most important assignment of your life despite your exhaustion?
You would if your name is William B. Evans, one of the runners in the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, when two homemade bombs killed three people and injured more than 260 others. A 33-year member of the Boston Police Department, then-Superintendent Evans ran this, his 44th marathon, in 3:34:06, finishing at about 1:40 p.m. An hour and nine minutes later, the bombs went off.
When he arrived at the finish line for the second time that day, his muscles were a little tight. “But once the adrenaline kicked in and once I’d seen what had taken place on Boylston Street and I’d seen the bodies lying there, obviously, you know, the emotions took over and honestly, I didn’t really feel the legs, I didn’t really feel exhausted at all,” he told the Transcript during a telephone interview from his new seat as Boston’s police commissioner.
Commissioner Evans will talk about how his Catholic education strengthened him in this and other crises when he speaks at the Archbishop’s St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast March 17 at the Connecticut Convention Center, sponsored by the Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Schools (FACS).
The annual FACS breakfast is a fund-raiser for scholarships to Catholic schools within the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Commissioner Evans considers himself a sort of poster boy for Catholic school scholarships. By the time he was 14, he had lost both parents and a brother, and he was in danger of going down the wrong path, hanging on street corners with kids in a tough neighborhood in South Boston. Father A. Paul White, his pastor at Gate of Heaven Parish, intervened, providing a full scholarship to St. Sebastian School, then located in Newton, Mass., now located in Needham.
Commissioner Evans said he will tell the guests at the breakfast, “I’m a prime example of what your money can do for an inner-city kid.”
Moving up through the ranks of the Boston Police Department – he never wanted to do any other kind of work, he said – required an ability to study for each position. “That school taught me how to study, how to be a student,” he said.
Two years before the marathon bombings, during the 70-day Occupy Boston demonstrations in Dewey Square, then-Superintendent Evans was assigned the job of keeping order among the hundreds of protesters.
“I was there maybe three or four times a day talking to them, building relationships,” he said. “I was a constant presence there. I built relationships with the demonstrators and all the protesters down there, and we exchanged phone numbers. Again, it’s all about the way you treat people, and again, I think it goes back to my upbringing. Be nice to everybody.”
He didn’t wield a stick. He didn’t wear a helmet. He defused a potentially dangerous situation by setting a tone of friendship.
“It was probably one of the best-handled Occupy decampments in the country, and I think we became a case study on how to deal with people,” he said.
And it all started with the kind act of a parish priest, Father White. “He plucked me out of a tough environment and put me in a safe environment where I got a great Catholic education. It made all the difference in the world,” he said.
Commissioner Evans will be the keynote speaker at the Archbishop’s St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, 7:30 a.m., March 17 at the Connecticut Convention Center. Tickets are available at 860-761-7499 or www.facshartford.org.