Following the release of “Patriots Day,” a film based on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, real-life hero and former Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis will visit FAU’s John D. MacArthur campus as a guest speaker in February.
In the chilled, early morning hours of Patriots’ Day on April 15, 2013, a phalanx of mechanical street sweepers whooshed their way along Boylston Street, and Boston city officials checked off yet another item on their extensive annual list of marathon preparations. By the time the elite runners crossed the finish line just after noon, the footing of the 117th Boston Marathon was pristine. But almost two hours later, Boylston’s carefully groomed surface would be (and would tell) a very different story.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis knew that story “was going to be a bad one” with his first steps out of the truck onto the scene. During his high-speed ride into Back Bay, he’d been told the terrifying details of the still-unfolding events: The explosions. The blood. The wounded. But it was the crunching of metal against pavement beneath the soles of his shoes that told him: shrapnel.
“That was an important moment,” Davis explains. “It told me right away that we were dealing with improvised explosive devices.” Even more clear? Their intended effect: “These were bombs that were meant to maim and kill people,” he says.
The devastation Davis felt in that moment was foreign. “It was something I’d never seen in the United States before. It was clear to me that this was a terrorist attack,” Davis says. “I looked around at the damage to the city, and I thought, ‘They got us. But now we’ve got to get them.’”
The story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings—and Davis’s place within that story—is the subject of the new film “Patriots Day,” opening in theaters nationwide on Jan. 13. But Jupiter-area residents will have the unique opportunity to hear Davis speak in person about the bombings—as well as hear his thoughts on the current state of policing in America—when he delivers a lecture sponsored by Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society on Feb. 2.
Davis—who resigned from his post in Boston in September 2013, and who now heads an eponymously named business strategy and security services firm—has been in law enforcement for more than 25 years. Since his early days as a beat cop in Lowell, Massachusetts, Davis has been an advocate of what he calls “community policing,” aiming to empower officers to proactively identify and solve problems.
“There’s never been a more important time to engage in community policing,” he says. “But we also face the necessary militarization of policing.” It’s a dichotomy that’s not lost on Davis. “Officers have to swap between being in a position of guardian to being a warrior at a moment’s notice, and that’s a dilemma,” he explains.
Davis hopes his lecture can help engage Jupiter and its surrounding communities to support and become more involved with their local police agencies. “I want people to have a better understanding of the challenges that are facing municipalities right now, and what they can personally do to help deal with it,” he says.
That kind of understanding is what helped Davis and a team of more than 4,000 law enforcement officers and public service workers put an end to Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s nearly 108-hour siege on Boston. “It was a citywide effort,” Davis says humbly.
That effort is an underlying theme of “Patriots Day.” Still, watching an early cut of the film proved difficult for Davis. “It brought up a lot of real tough memories,” he confesses. “But overall, it tells a great story of the people of the city of Boston on one of their darkest days,” he says. “And I think it’s a story worth telling.”
“Patriots Day” stars a number of Hollywood standouts, including John Goodman, who was tapped to play Davis. “I’m very happy with his portrayal,” Davis says, admitting that it felt “peculiar” to watch someone portray him on screen. Although he’s certain filmgoers across New England will be listening for Goodman’s take on Davis’ distinctive local accent, for Davis, there’s no debate. “John nailed it,” he says, laughing.
Far more important to Davis than his own onscreen portrayal is the film’s treatment of the more than 260 injured and four killed on Patriots’ Day 2013 and the days that followed. “The victims were my biggest concern,” Davis says. “[Director] Peter Berg and [producer] Michael Radutzky said they were committed to documenting what happened, and keeping the victims central in the movie,” Davis says.
His verdict? “I think that they did just that.”
“Remembering Patriots Day: The Hunt for the Tsarnaev Brothers and the True Meaning of #BostonStrong” is the title of Davis’ lecture, moderated by John Ortiz Smykla, Ph.D., which will be held on Thursday, Feb. 2 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at FAU’s Jupiter campus. Tickets are $55 for members and $65 for non-members of FAU’s Lifelong Learning Society; 561.799.8547 or firstname.lastname@example.org.