"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Monday, April 15, 2013

Too close for comfort .... another sad day

As each horrific event in American history unfolds I think to myself .... this has to be the worst. This has to be the one that will harden me, this has to be the one to desensitize me. But here I am again. Shocked and silenced and not knowing what I should be feeling or how I should be reacting.
It was just a normal day .... again the weather was beautiful (that was what I remember most about 9/11 - it was a beautiful day).

Patriots' Day in Boston is kind of a big deal. It commemorates the beginning of our battle toward democracy - toward freedom from tyranny- toward both independence and camaraderie. It is the day of the Boston Marathon where people climb Heartbreak Hill and come to end of a grueling day to the smiles and embraces of those who love and support them.

For me it was a much needed break from the Monday morning commute. An extra day to spend with my son and my husband (today is my wedding anniversary). School vacation had started, I was home from work, the six-year-old had friends over, and we were just all hanging out in the yard playing, and planting and working on the house.

We all came in when it started getting a little chilly and I got a robo-call from the university I work at in Boston saying that there was very little information about the two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I was once again stunned and silenced. Once again I went to the TV to watch the footage and wait for some news that would somehow make it ok. I went to Facebook to check on friends who live and work in the city. And waited for some news that would make it ok.

The rumors started running wild .... from the number of people injured or dead to the suspects they may or may not have in custody ... to the families of the Newtown victims at the finish line (they are apparently safe thank goodness) to the third explosion at the JFK Library. Then the visuals ..... SWAT teams driving through the streets ..... to ATF agents holding a suspect at Brigham & Women's Hospital ..... to the arrest on the Boston Common .... to the stains on the street. And don't even get me started on the photos of the people being rushed to the hospital.

At some level all of these stories make you feel heartache as in "this is my country and I don't understand why someone would do this." But this time it is my home. The streets I walk on a beautiful afternoon on my lunch break. The places I take my kids to learn about history. The places my grandmother took me. And for me it will be a long time before I think of these streets as mine again.

There were two things in particular about this event that really made me pause, unable to know how to feel.

The first thing were these two photos - one taken at the time of the first explosion and one was taken at the time of the second explosion:

These people were finishing their race. These were not the star athletes of the day. I heard several times that the explosion was set at such a time as to have the most people finishing the race. The middle of the pack sort of speak - the average Joe - the everyday person.

These people were still running the marathon. They had not gotten to the location of the first explosion and probably had no idea what was going on. They were just making it through their race .... proud, sore, tired, exalted .... not knowing that their lives (even if they were not injured) would be changed forever.
It was just a normal day.

The other thing was the realization that one of the spectators who died was an 8-year-old boy. Sitting in the bleachers on a street I have walked down holding the hand of my own child. The senseless death of a child just doesn't ever get any easier and just doesn't ever make any sense to me.

But again .... as we look for a way to accept what we are watching, as we look for some sign that will make it less awful we find it. The heroes. The people who rush in when others rush out. The bystanders who ripped off their shirts to save the leg or the life of a complete stranger. The police and fire personnel and hospital workers who dropped whatever else they were doing this afternoon to go into a city people were fleeing to get the job done. Again for that briefest of moments we are aware of the worst horror that human nature can offer and at the same time the greatest sacrifice and compassion and unity that human nature has to offer. It is this thought .... of unwavering caring and sacrifice that I will bring to bed with me.

I wonder what kind of point was the person who placed these bombs at this location on this day trying to make? What could these people possibly have done to become victims of this kind of rage? The purpose of terrorism (foreign or domestic) is to instill terror. Did these people suffer just for that? Because someone thinks that this kind of event will stop people from living their lives? Do people not learn from history ..... none of the other terrorist events on American soil have ever stopped us from living our lives (at least not for long).
So tomorrow I am planning to make my commute to work. To be there for my students who need a shoulder or someone to yell at. As part of school vacation I still plan to bring my son into the city that I love to experience the beauty and the history and the energy .... because Boston is beautiful and vibrant and it always will be. If the patriots could survive to build a country .... we will survive this.

But I have to admit .... this one was a little too close to home!

"On days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats—we are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens." —President Obama

Update: above I mentioned that in tragedy we find heros. this is amazing to me .... people opening their homes to complete strangers .... offering rides or showers or just a place to catch their breath. The best that humanity has to offer right here! Boston Marathon Room Listing: http://mashable.com/2013/04/15/boston-marathon-room-offers/


  1. Understand your comments Leann. How and why and who are the culprits in this I do not know but I send you and your city my thoughts and good wishes. As I read the various reports and watched the news coming in I noticed the word Revere - I think it is a district of Boston - and I was immediately reminded of the wonderful story of Paul Revere. I can almost completely recite (from childhood) the words to the great poem about his "midnight ride"......"Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere......." How dreadfully sad and what awful symmetry that in a place such as Boston - one of the world's great capitals of freedom - the "tea party", Paul Revere and the rest - there should occur an incident like this - be it political or criminal based - which strikes at the very heart of all our freedoms.
    Kind regards to you, your family and your city.

    1. Thank you Tony. Revere is a city outside Boston - over the Tobin Bridge. It is a place with lovely beaches and I drive past it everyday on my commute. I have heard mentioned in more than one news story the upcoming marathon in London. Please know I wish you and your country well at that event.