On Monday, April 15th a bomb went off at the Boston Marathon. The news was stunning; watching it unfold in my home town was surreal. My very first thoughts, instant, when I heard about the explosion, were for a few friends from where I live now who had traveled to Boston to run the race. Both had posted updates about their excitement to run the race, or be there, and I had been waiting to hear how they did. I was excited that they would be seeing my home town, and shared that with them. Suddenly, instead, I was terrified that any one of the folks there might be in danger. I relied on social media for updates, and was infinitely relieved to hear that all of them were safe and accounted for.
After that, it began to sink in that something truly horrible had happened in the place I still call home. Like so many people, I have spent much more time this week following the news— more closely than usual. Today, it’s been hard to pull myself away from the live coverage in Boston, as mayhem set in. A police officer where my husband went to school, MIT, was murdered, and a massive manhunt brought the city of Boston to a complete standstill. Inconceivable. Even when I worked late, late shifts, so many years ago and walked out in the middle of the night… Boston was never totally still. Today it was. For those of us who have lived there, the images on TV today were truly unbelievable.
No matter where I live now, and regardless of how happy I am here, Boston will always be my first home. It’s in my blood, and in my speech, if you know me. I swear too much; I say wicked; I love lobstah. I grew up an hour south of Boston and spent my youth looking to Boston as the place to be. My first rock concert was with high school friends, at Boston Garden: the Doobie Brothers. We shopped at the original Filene’s Basement, and thought we were “wicked pissah” when we went into the city for a day of Little Italy and Fanueil Hall.
I then went to college in Cambridge, across the river from the shiny city, and every chance we had, we crossed the bridge, for youthful adventures. Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Watertown… these places made up my world, they were my home for a very long time—at a pivotal time in my life. Back then, I knew all the restaurants, stores, the streets in the places that are all over the news now. There was a time when I lived in an “apartment” in one of those familiar old homes, just like the suspects were hiding in. Seeing the footage of the bombing at the Boston Marathon and the startling violence and manhunt that has come after, has been shocking every day this week. It is inconceivable to imagine Boston all locked up so tight— that city I love, at a stand still.
As I watch the news today, I no longer know all of the landmarks and images that show up on my TV. Like every city, it has been changing constantly since I left, just as I have. Because I have family and very close friends who still live there, because my daughter went to college in Massachusetts, I have been back to Boston fairly frequently since I graduated from college. Watertown, the site of the manhunt today, is very familiar to me. Cambridge is filled with memories and familiar touchstones. It is where I spent my youth, where I fell in love. I spent countless hours on the campus of MIT, where so many of my friends and future husband went to school. The officer that was killed was just being born, about the time I was leaving Boston for Grad school, but his death feels a little personal… murdered in a place that brought me so much joy, and so much fun. It shocks on a level that is hard to intelligently describe.
This is the first time in national history that an entire major U.S. city has completely shut down (no transit, every business closed, schools closed, no taxi service, nada!), in response to a terrorist or criminal act… in an effort to apprehend a suspect, who has wreaked havoc, and brought death and trauma onto an entire city—the nation. The Boston Marathon is the oldest and one of the most important marathon in the world. Difficult to qualify for, and drawing elite runners from around the world. There were 100+ countries represented at Monday’s race. One of the women who died, was from China. Consequently, when the bombing first occurred, the coverage was international. However, throughout today, I wondered if other countries could understand Boston’s approach, it’s steely determination to bring justice.
Throughout the week, I felt mixed emotions. The part of me that is still deeply tied to Boston, anxiously watched the updates and felt the shock that so many others felt. The part of me that is a citizen of a bigger world, was aware that this event was nothing new for so many people in other parts of the world. On the same day of the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, bombings in Iraq killed 42. Today, a bombing at a cafe in Bagdad, crowded with young people, killed 26. The same grief and horror we were feeling about Boston, is felt by parents and people in those places just as profoundly. However, you could barely find those stories amidst the huge Boston headlines. This is nothing new; Americans are no different than citizens anywhere else: we notice what happens in our own back yard, more than we notice that which is happening somewhere else. “There but for the grace…” keeps us all going.
As I wrote in my post for the Outlier Collective this week (read here), many in the U.S. are still shell shocked from 9/11, and probably always will be. We have not lived with frequent acts of terrorism, as some of those other countries have. Despite the lessons of 9/11, many still believe that we are inherently safe from those things. Boston was where two of the four planes, used in 9/11, originated. It is a city that bears deep scars from that day and they faced that, as they did this event, with typical Boston strength, as well as the hindsight to not let it happen again.
I have long come to understand that my home city still carries the DNA of the Pilgrims that settled the area. It is a city that is fiercely proud and independent, a melting pot of many cultures and backgrounds. Boston pride could easily be seen as arrogance, cockiness by others; but it stems from a long and tested history. The personalities are big, some of it encompasses all of New England, which consists of: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, for the record. New England is where our nation began, and Bostonians are patriotic to the end; and are bold in displaying that. The Marathon occurs each year on Patriots Day… anything for a parade. We are intense on most levels.
We are loud, we are passionate, we don’t sit quietly and watch. It is a place where strangers are strangers only until they are friends. Bostonians don’t give that away easily. But, once you’re a friend, it’s for life. Things run very deep there. “Boston Proud” is not just a Facebook status to those who live there. For those who live, or have lived, in Boston, there is a deep pride of place. We have our secret handshakes and wicked pissah secret words, and a fierce and passionate commitment to all things sports. So many years later, I know to only cheer for the Patriots, The Celtics, The Bruins— despite having lived in Chicago, the Detroit area, and now Seattle… it’s hard wired, from a youth suckled on names like Esposito, Orr, Yaz, Collins, Fisk. It is a tight knit community, and once you’re part of it, you’re always part of it. Boston takes care of its own, and that, above all else, came through this week.
I saw this Tweet today, and smiled, knowing it was so true:
Boston is probably the only major city that if you fuck with them, they will shut down the whole city…stop everything.. and find you.
Watching the intense coverage today, I was riveted. It occurred to me more than once, that 24-hour news coverage may not be a good thing, as stories broke and then were taken back. Mis-information was rampant at times. I was deeply moved to see the town of Watertown, the entire Boston area, lock themselves in and do what the police asked without complaint or whining. It was amazing to see so many police officers step up and risk their lives, to bring in two suspects who had proven themselves extremely dangerous and willing to kill anyone in their way. It was a community wide effort that ended with as little violence and loss of life as was possible, given the circumstances. It was compelling to read Facebook updates from friends there, knowing how much more intense it must be for them. Today, I felt so proud of my other home, my first home. I grieve with them as they bury those who lost their lives, and I celebrate with them as they see an end to this horrific event. I cheered the first responders, as they so enthusiastically did as well (gave me chills!). What a week: what a day; what a city! Today, we’re all Boston Proud.
Check out this spirit! The accents, the Boston pride comes through (Stah Spangled Bannah):
Did you watch the news coverage on Friday? Are you from Boston, lived there, or have you been there? Share your thoughts.
Check out my guest post on the Outlier Collective, addressing the question: What Seminal Event from the past 20 years, has emotionally affected you, and why? See what I picked: http://theoutliercollective.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/what-seminal-event-from-the-past-20-years-has-emotionally-affected-you-the-most-and-why-by-tales-from-the-motherland/
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