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2013 was one of the first years that I didn’t go to watch the Boston Marathon. When I heard about the bombing, I sent Sean a text that said, “You good?” He responded that yeah, he was good. Three days later, I got a call at midnight that my brother was dead. He was shot by the marathon bombers while on duty at MIT.
My father married Sean’s mother when I was nine years old and Sean was four. He’s been my brother my whole life. We had a big Brady Bunch kind of family with six active kids — we were always playing basketball and street hockey, riding bikes and getting into trouble. Sean had wanted to be a cop since we were little. On the one-year anniversary of his death, there was a ceremony at MIT where they unveiled plans for this memorial. I leaned over to one of the officers and told him I worked for Suffolk, and that maybe we can help.
When Suffolk asked me to work on the job, I said yes, not realizing the magnitude of that decision. On the first day, we had to take down some trees and pavers, and I was just staring at the spot where he was killed. It was emotional. Word got around that Sean and I were related, so all these people from MIT kept coming to give me a hug, buy me a coffee or stop traffic for a truck. I can't say enough about the people at MIT who showed me all this love and helped make things easier.
I’m happy that I created a space where I can come back to and feel Sean’s spirit.
For the monument, they wanted stone that stood out, something solid to symbolize unity and strength. I’m a civil engineer, so there’s an engineering piece to it that intrigues me. There’s a stone in the center that the other stones are holding up with their weight. It’s wild. It took a week to set that keystone piece, and that was just getting the right height. But then we started figuring out how everything went, and seeing everyone's faces when we found our groove was awesome. When that last piece was set, it was like a celebration of the project and his life.
The year after Sean was killed, I ran the Boston Marathon with my sister. I had never really run long distance, but the winter before, I went out for my first run. Mile by mile, step by step, a little bit at a time, I built up the strength. We went out there, gave it our all, and that's still one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life. Turning down Boylston Street and going over that finish line was just electric.
For that race, we raised money for a memorial fund my family established in Sean’s name. Thanks to our marathon team and golf tournaments over the years, we’ve been able to support local nonprofits, sponsor athletic clinics and tournaments and provide academic scholarships. We also select and fully pay for someone who wants a career in law enforcement to attend the Lowell Police Academy — just like Sean did. He kept his volunteering to himself, so I never knew he spent so much of his personal time helping others, but it makes me smile now knowing that his name and core beliefs still make a difference.
I’m happy that I created a space where I can come back to and feel Sean’s spirit. I’m here once a year on the anniversary of when he died, and it’s the only time I really sit and think just about him. It’s been 10 years since he passed, and a lot has happened since then. I’ve got a great wife and three kids and life can be chaotic at times, but he's always a part of me. The hole he left won’t ever be filled, but there are some things we can all do to create good in the world. I just want to try to make him proud.
Rob Rogers has been with Suffolk for 16 years and currently works on our South Station redevelopment project in Boston. To read more about Sean’s life and the Collier Memorial at MIT, click here. To support the Officer Collier Memorial Fund, click here.
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