August 21, 2017

‘Patriots Day’ reopens conversations about Boston Marathon Bombings

By Zoe Gieger '20, Staff Writer

For many Bostonians, April 15, 2013 was an unforgettable day. They can tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news of the Boston Marathon Bombings. The new movie “Patriots Day” captures those unforgettable moments that forever impacted the city.

The movie covers the events leading up to the bombings and the investigation that followed. When CBS announced that it would be making a movie about these terrible events, questions about how accurate the film would be and whether or not it was too soon ensued.

In 2013, when news of the bombings reached Wellesley, Lieutenant Scott Whittemore was one of the Wellesley Police Department policemen to report to the finish line. It was the first year that Whittemore was in charge of Wellesley marathon operations.

As a policeman who worked on the day of the bombings, Whittemore, along with others from Boston and surroundings towns were invited to a private screening of “Patriots Day,” with Mark Wahlberg and the directors of the film. Everyone from Wellesley PD, however, decided not to go.

The choice to forego seeing the film was not a difficult one for Whittemore. “[Being] on the edge of the crime scene and just having been there, I just had no desire to see it,” he said.

WPD officer Travis Dickinson, however, did go to see the movie at a later time. Dickinson had been the roommate of MIT policeman, Sean Collier, who was killed by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Wellesley native Jake Picking played the role of Sean Collier in the movie, but has declined to comment, due to the sensitive subject.

Whittemore said, “[Dickinson’s] impression [of “Patriots Day”] was that they hit a homerun building up to the actual explosions. After the explosions, it was very much Hollywood exaggerated.”

One of the bombing survivors the movie follows is Patrick Downes, played by actor Christopher O’Shea. Downes and his wife, Jessica Kensky, were planning on having a relaxing day of watching the Marathon. They had walked around Boston, and eventually ended up watching the marathon near the finish line. Due to the bombings, they both lost limbs that day.

When the crew of “Patriots Day” first contacted Downes and Kensky, they were “…really hesitant… This story is obviously so personal to so many people in Boston… It’s so emotional and the last thing that we would ever want to do is disrespect anybody,” Downes said.

Although Downes was hesitant at first, he does feel that the movie was accurate. “Some stuff they embellished a little as Hollywood does to some degree,” Downes said.  “We think, and hope they accomplished their goal in making sure they respected the families of those whose loved ones were killed, and the other people who were badly injured. It seems as though they did that.”

Kathy Fleming, who coached multiple marathoners, was another Bostonian who chose not to watch the movie. Fleming’s husband, Jack Fleming, is a prominent BAA marathon organizer. Fleming was at mile ten of the race when the explosions happened, while her husband was in Boston at the time but was uninjured.

Kathy Fleming chose not to watch “Patriots Day” for a variety of reasons. “I felt like when we were watching the coverage it was so surreal that if there was a movie, you wouldn’t even believe what was happening… I think it would be a little too much,” she said.

Whittemore, Downes, and Fleming don’t have any strong oppositions to “Patriots Day” coming out only four years after the bombings, but all feel it may be a little too soon.

“I think in some ways it will always be too soon… the pain and sadness that people feel is just very real,” Downes said. “It’s not made up. It’s not just something from a movie, it’s very real.”

Fleming agreed that it was too soon, but recognizes the importance of the movie coming out. “Since they were going to do it anyway, people like my husband Jack being on set helped make sure that things were going to be done as tastefully and as truthfully as possible.”

Despite different opinions on the accuracy or date of release of the movie, Downes believes the movie serves an important purpose. “I hope this movie creates a way for people to think about how to combat terrorism, or how to care for people whose lives are changed as a result,” he said.

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