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Remembering Sean Collier: A brother's perspective

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  July 3, 2013 06:12 AM

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Collier AP Red Sox .jpgSean Collier was a typical Boston fan.

He dutifully followed the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots.

But he, like so many of us, had his favorite.

Collier loved the Patriots, really loved the Patriots. And he loved wearing his Wes Welker jersey.

Better yet, his step-dad has Patriots' season tickets.

2013 was shaping up to be his best Patriots' season ever.

Sean Collier was finally able to be "going in" on those season tickets. Sure, they're somewhere in the upper deck, closer to Providence than the playing field, but his place in Gillette Stadium was assured, even if Welker's wasn't.

The Patriots were just one win away from the Super Bowl after the 2012 season and - at least a couple of months ago - needed just a piece or two to elevate the team back to Super Bowl status.

Things have gone catastrophically downhill for the Patriots since that loss to the Ravens in the AFC title game. Tom Brady will be without his top five receivers from 2012 on Opening Day this year. Brady's favorite target - Welker - now sits in passenger seat of Peyton Manning's Buick. His most prolific tight end (both off the field and in the end zone) - is recovering from back and elbow surgery. And his most durable tight end could likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

Tough times for Patriot Nation indeed.

But nothing compared to what Collier's family has had to endure.

Collier was a police officer at MIT who was ambushed and killed by the two cowardly pieces of human debris who bombed the Boston Marathon as they tried in vain to run and hide from law enforcement.

"Boston Strong" - the ultimate definition.

Sports remains an essential part of the Collier family. Sean's brother Andrew, 25, works as a machinist for Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte, N.C. Hendrick has Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Jeff Gordon in its stable. Andrew joined HMS in 2008 and has been here for three NASCAR Sprint Cup championships (Johnson in 2008-10). It's clearly a step up from the working the first bay at "Jiffy Lube."

Andrew spoke to the OBF blog about his brother's love for sports, his thoughts on the use of "Boston Strong" and a petition he has started to create a national holiday to honor first-responders like Sean, those 19 firefighters who perished in Arizona on Sunday and everyone one who has served the public as a police officer, firefighter or EMT.

"I can't bring Sean back. But as a nation, we can make a commitment to honoring the people who give so much to help our communities every day," Andrew Collier wrote on his petition's Change.Org site. "It is because of this pride, and the pride for all who serve, that I am writing to ask that a national holiday be designated to honor first responders for their service."

Andrew And Richard.jpg(Here, Sean is shown in the middle with Richard Donohue (at left), an MBTA police officer who was injured in a shootout with the Marathon bombers after Sean was killed, and Travis Dixon (right), a friend to both and Sean's former roommate.)

What does Andrew Collier think of fans and teams using "Boston Strong" as a motto during the Bruins' Stanley Cup playoff run, or during the pennant race about to take place at Fenway Park?

"I love Boston Strong. It means so much and really does define Boston in a short saying. I am so proud to be from Boston, and I think the world can understand why after seeing how people reacted during and after the bombings," he said. "As for sports teams, I say let fans use it. Like I said, it’s theirs to use. A lot of people in Boston are still hurting, and we look to our sports for a distraction. They can use "Boston Strong" to support that – like a rallying cry."

No reason for that angst-filled guilt, folks.

"#BostonStrong and Carry On."

"I’ve read about some companies trying to trademark it, which I think shouldn’t happen. It should belong to Boston, not to a single person or company. And I wouldn’t want to see someone make a big profit off it. I hope anything raised is donated or used for a good cause for the City of Boston [such as the One Fund] and those affected by what happened."

Like the victims on Marathon Monday, who were killed or injured for just "being there" as fans or participants, Sean Collier wanted to "be there" where ever the action was, as both a fan and as a police officer.

"Sean was really excited this year about finally going in on our dad’s season tickets for the Pats games," Andrew Collier said. "He loved going and was so happy to be buying tickets instead of just joining them for a couple of games. He loved the Pats. But, heck, who in Boston doesn’t? We’ll kick ya out."

Each generation of Patriots' fandom has its own special collective memory of that first crushing defeat - whether it was the 51-10 beatdown at the hands of the Chargers in the 1963 AFL title game, "roughing the passer" against the Raiders in 1976, Tony Eason's appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a fetal position on the Superdome turf after Super Bowl XX, Desmond Howard's kickoff return 11 years later in the same building, 18-1 or Welker's drop of Brady's off-target pass against the Giants.

For the Collier boys, it came in January of 1997, when the Patriots reached Super Bowl XXXI. Sean was 11 at the time, Andrew was 9.

"He and I were sitting at the coffee table, drawing the "Flying Elvis" and watching the game. I remember copying how he was drawing it. But I also remember the Pats losing and being very confused. I didn’t understand that they just lost [35-21] and it was over. I guess I had to learn some time. Stupid Packers. It’s just a great memory of hanging out with Sean, enjoying a game."

"The Pats were his passion," Andrew continued. "Sean loved them and knew so much about them and everything going on in the NFL. He was really amazing with that stuff. He followed the other Boston teams, but nothing like his Patriots."

Sean Collier grew up in a real-life "Brady Bunch" household and is was the second-youngest of six kids.

He has two sisters named Jennifer.

(Take than, Jan).

Much has been written and said about Collier since his tragic and inexplicable death on April 18. Andrew was able to describe his brother in one sentence. But it wasn't easy.

"He was the best, most humble, respectful, honorable, amazing person – even to his annoying little brother some of the time – in the world."

Think about that before you decide to spend $227.50 or more on an Aaron Hernandez jersey.

At that rate, a Sean Collier MIT jersey should sell for $227.5 million.

Even though it's priceless.

Collier Family - AP .JPGThe Colliers, like many other Marathon bombing victim families, had the honor of serving as banner captains for the Bruins during the playoffs. Their honor came before Boston's Game 3 victory over Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final. It would be Boston's final win of the season. Andrew Collier was not able to attend, since he lives and works in North Carolina, but he watched it on TV.

Sean Collier was there in spirit, no doubt.

"It was great," Andrew said. "People are amazing. It does make me feel better knowing there is more good in this world than there is evil. I sometimes feel strange about everything people are giving us and doing for us, like the Bruins did. I don’t deserve any of it, but Sean sure does so I’ll do what I can for him. I do have to admit I am a sucker for mementos, so I love some of the trinkets and things I can keep."

HMS and the NASCAR community honored the victims of Boston with several paint schemes in the weeks following the attacks. Expect more tributes when the NASCAR Sprint Cup series returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 14 for the Camping World RV Sales 301.

"People have been so amazing to my family, and it really is a reflection of Sean’s impact. People feel compelled to do these kinds of things to honor a good person who has done good things in this world. We are getting so many of these honors because Sean was an amazing man, a better man than I’ll ever be."

A sliver lining in the worst cloud imaginable.

It is that sentiment that serves as the driving force behind Collier's petition for a national federal holiday to honor first responders. It has about 17,000 signatures and has a goal of at least 100,000.

Here's his argument:

"When Memorial Day was coming up, I realized that there is still no federal holiday to honor our first responders, and there should be. First responders are not all that different from our soldiers in the way that they risk their lives and protect our country’s freedoms every time they put on that uniform. Some are paid, some are volunteers. First responders are on our communities’ front lines. They are protecting us against terror, crimes and all kinds of threats. We take for granted that if our house is one fire, we can call 911 and a fire truck will be there in minutes. Or if we witness a crime, we can do the same thing and a police car is there. We all know people who have been taken to the hospital by an ambulance and may not have made it if it weren’t for the EMS personnel. We are especially grateful at the time of our tragedies, but we should be grateful all the time. This would show first responders we appreciate them and that we’re going to spend at least one day a year honoring them for what they do for us.. This is an effort for all first responders, past, present, and future. It’s not just for my brother. Think of the people who helped at the marathon or on Sept. 11. It is for them and everyone who serves. Let’s thank them for all they do every day."

In spite of the unimaginable loss suffered by Collier's family, they remain grateful for the support and love they've received from the police departments at MIT, in Somerville [where Sean was destined to work] Boston, Wilmington [Sean's hometown] and from law enforcement personnel across the nation.

"The people of Boston deserve a big thank you. It truly is the best city I have ever known," Andrew said. "People around our country, and some even from other countries, have come forward to honor Sean and offer condolences. That is truly amazing when you really stop to think about it. My family would like them all to know that the support means more than we can say."

You're welcome, Andrew.

In more ways than you'll ever know.

____

Update on Tuesday at 7 a.m.: Got an email from Sandy W., who has ties to the MIT sailing program. Apparently Sean loved sailing the Charles almost as much as the Patriots. "Sean loved to hang at the MIT sailing pavilion and even had his own sailing card. There is a new sailboat there named the Officer Sean ... Since more than 2000 students learn to sail there every year, a lot of people will get to know Sean through that boat over the next 75 years, which is how long they have been sailing at MIT."


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