Boston has long evoked the best and the worst in our nation. Yesterday my favorite American city did so again. (More)

I grew up 40 minutes outside of Boston and went there often as a teen. I’ve walked the Freedom Trail many times. Athletes like John Havlicek, Carl Yastrzemski, Bobby Orr, Daryl Stingley, and Pat Bradley were childhood idols. So was Arthur Fiedler. I’ve rowed in the Head of the Charles, watched a home run clear the Green Monster at Fenway Park, dined on lobster at Anthony’s Pier Four, and noshed pizza by the statue of Red Auerbach at Faneuil Hall.

When my oldest son was a toddler, we took a trip to Boston and stayed at the Copley Square Hotel. As we toured the city, I left my purse on a city bus. When I got back to the hotel, the doorman made some calls and brought my purse to my room an hour later. My money and credit cards were untouched. That’s Boston.

It’s not all of Boston, of course. When I was a teenager, the desegregation of Boston’s public schools touched off violent protests, reminding the nation that racism was not limited by geography. We moved to Massachusetts when I was 12, and my parents were southerners. One night a busing story came on the news, and a friend asked me if the white protesters met southern standards. I laughed with her, a memory of which I’m not proud. I doubt she would be either.

Boston is more than her famed Marathon, but that race expresses much about her. It’s the oldest modern marathon race, and one of the world’s most prestigious. It inspired me to run on my high school cross country team. I never ran Heartbreak Hill, but anyone who’s run in that area has run hills. Lots of hills. If you ran with a team there, or just with a group of friends, you helped them to the top. And they helped you.

We saw that yesterday, in video clips that were at once horrific and inspiring. Horrific as the bombs exploded. Inspiring as police, runners, and bystanders rushed to help the injured. That’s Boston.

Of course it’s not uniquely Boston. People help people across the nation and around the world, every day. But I hope you’ll forgive the special pride I felt as I watched Bostonians react. I know many people around the country think Boston sports fans are insufferable. We can be. We’re also good people.

The immediate and courageous responses on Boylston Street stand in stark contrast to some almost as immediate but far uglier responses online. Thankfully, I missed most of that as I watched the story unfold. Like those on Boylston Street, what I saw were messages of support and caring. The messages came from across the nation and around the world, like the flags at the finish line, like the runners in the race.

And that, too, is Boston.