BOSTON — The Sunday before Patriots' Day could become a holiday of its own, after the Massachusetts House this week passed a bill that would designate the day in honor of first responders.
"Day in, day out, these folks perform vital duties," said Rep. Jim Miceli, who sponsored the bill that would recognize police, firefighters and other emergency responders. "All you have to do is watch the news."
Passed by the House on Monday, the bill (H 4161) now moves to the Senate. Miceli, a Wilmington Democrat, said he filed the bill based on an idea from one of his constituents, Jerry Selissen.
Selissen, who serves as town moderator in Tewksbury and was formerly a selectman there, said he thought of recognizing first responders more than a year ago, after he was struck by the contrast between media reports of hostility towards police with his personal experience with his town's police and fire departments.
"You know something, when everybody's running away, these people are running toward the problem," he said. "I think sometimes we don't keep that in perspective."
The bill originally set March 26 as First Responder Day (H 2197), but an amendment from House Committee on Bills in Third Reading Chairman Ted Speliotis pushed the date to "the Sunday preceding the third Monday in April." Patriots' Day, which falls on the third Monday, commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War and is the traditional date of the Boston Marathon.
Patriots' Day this year is Monday, April 18.
The new date and its connection to the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013 bring extra weight to the first responders holiday, Miceli and Selissen said. Miceli called the response of police, firefighters and emergency personnel to the bombing a "good representation" of what the date aims to honor.
MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, a Wilmington native, was shot dead in his cruiser by the bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, on April 18, 2013. Law enforcement officers from across the state participated in a manhunt for the brothers, which ended on April 19 with the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a Watertown yard.
"I kind of like that they're tying it in with Patriots' Day, because I think it's going to give us an opportunity to stop and reflect about what transpired on Patriots' Day three years ago, and hopefully those people are going to be there to help us long into the future," Selissen said.