Over thirty years ago, I came to the Boston area to go to college, fell in love with a city, and never left. Even though I live in the suburbs now, I consider Boston to be my adoptive home. Along with the rest of the world, I heard the tragic news last Monday and it rocked my world.
Patriot’s Day, a quirky local holiday, has always been one of my favorites. It is only celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine (which used to be part of Massachusetts) and commemorates the start of the American Revolution. In Lexington, my current home, people in colonial garb reenact the events of that fateful day, but most Boston area residents are focused on the Boston Marathon. Who could imagine that this long-standing endurance race would come to represent its own fateful day?
In the past I’ve stood on the side of the road and cheered runners on. The day has a positive energy that makes you feel excited and happy, even if you don’t know a single person passing by. I felt outrage that anyone would inflict such horror, could consciously plan to harm crowds of innocent people, those finishing a grueling race or those cheering on loved ones or total strangers. It just didn’t fit into my vision of the world.
I know I wasn’t alone with the heavy weight that I felt sitting on top of my heart all week. It got heavier Friday morning when Howard woke me as soon as he heard the night’s news: an MIT campus police officer killed, a carjacking, a car chase, a gun fight, and a metropolitan area under lockdown. It was surreal. These things just don’t happen in real life. This is supposed to only happen in a script someone writes for the movies or television. It’s not supposed to be happening seven miles away from home.
We weren’t in the lockdown zone, but our workplaces were. We stuck close to home. It didn’t seem like a day to be out and about, and it was hard to move away from the radio news anyway. Then there was the disappointment of the press conference at the end of the day. Lockdown lifted, but the suspect still at large. The radio stayed on.
As we listened, suddenly, everything took an unexpected turn, and the suspect was located. We finally turned on the TV and watched and waited for the end of the day’s story. What a relief when the suspect was finally captured, with no further injuries or loss of life. And he was alive, so there is a possibility of some answers as to why.
Truly, the best part of the day was watching the people lining the streets of Watertown and giving the law enforcement officers the standing ovation they deserved as they started to leave the area. These men and women quietly do their jobs every day. They train and drill for the kinds of things that happened last week and hope they never have to use on that training during their career. Unfortunately, things happened, but they did their jobs flawlessly. The spontaneity and genuine feeling behind the applause felt right. I know the public was proud, and I hope the police were proud of themselves.
Yesterday, we went into Boston. I wouldn’t normally have gone just to go, but we had tickets to a show (M at the Huntington Theatre, not so good). After the show, we walked to the corner of Berkeley and Boylston Streets, a few blocks beyond the Boston Marathon finish line. This was the edge of the blocked off area. There was a memorial in front of the barricade with flags and flowers and running shoes and baseball caps and a myriad of other tributes to the victims of the day. It was very moving to be there.
Beyond the barricade was the eerie stillness of Boylston, normally a bustling commercial street filled with cars and people and the usual buzz of urban life. Yesterday, it was empty except for a few police officers and some people in white jackets who might have been a cleanup crew. It was strange. I felt sad, though I’m glad that I was there to bear witness to the scene before it eventually gets back to “normal”, whatever that will be now.
My thoughts continue to be with the families of Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, and Sean Collier as well as the many unnamed people injured or maimed in the explosions. Their road to recover will be a long one, but they will get there. Mankind is a resilient bunch, and in the aftermath of this senseless violence, fear won’t keep this city down.