My dad used to tell a story about the September 11th terrorist attacks that I hated. He was in a day of meetings at the MetLife offices in Jersey City that day and saw the first plane hit while outside smoking a cigarette on a break. The way he told it, the other man he was smoking with said something like, "What a terrible accident," to which my father supposedly replied, "That's no accident; planes don't fly that low over Manhattan." They rejoined their meeting and were sitting next to each other when the second plane hit. My father claimed to have said to his friend, "Any questions?"
Now, I hate this story because of how arrogant it makes my father sound (he had that way about him at times, but especially when he embellished a real-life story), but I hate it more for how cynical it is. Who, in a moment like that one, is concerned with being right? Knowing my father, claiming he knew it was a terrorist attack from the outset was a way of owning the experience and exacting some control over it. I am not sure what it will take for me to own my experience of the Boston Marathon bombing.
I was sitting in my cubicle when I heard. I work at one of the few businesses in Greater Boston that doesn't close for Patriots Day, a holiday that commemorates the "shot heard 'round the world" from the battle of Lexington and Concord in the American Revolution, and also falls on Marathon Monday every year. I was sitting in my cubicle and the top 40 radio was on as white noise for the background of our phone calls with customers and then a song was cut short by a news bulletin. I didn't hear it correctly the first time it was said. Explosions? Not in this city. Not in my city.
I was in the 7th grade in 2001; they wouldn't let us go outside for recess for fear that the breaking story just across the Hudson from my suburban Catholic school might overflow and claim us too. It was irrational, impossible, but we were all still so afraid. So many kids were pulled out of school that day. I knew my father wasn't in the city. I knew my mother and grandmother were safe. No one explained anything to us or turned off the television in our classroom when one of the boys climbed up on the windowsill to switch in on so we could all watch the news. This was a tragedy before Twitter, before smartphones. Information, and disinformation, spread less like fire across dry grass and more like a stain soaking into low-pile carpet. Everyone could see what had happened. No one knew what to do or what was being done. I remember standing in the front garden of my house after school with my uncles while they stared into the street and wept. It is one of the only times in my life that I've seen the men in my family cry openly.
When the first details of the explosion at the marathon finish line started coming, I wasn't sure how to react. No one I know was running, but anyone I know could've been watching. Again, I was just across a river from a massive tragedy that took place completely without warning. Last time this happened, I was twelve. Now I'm nearly 24. I don't feel that I am any better equipped to process terrorism this time around. The news made me panic the way it made all of us panic. Nobody is truly safe as long as fear is used as a weapon.
My city's spring is tainted. My first thought when the news started coming in was of a friend who commutes to graduate school downtown. I started crying, worried she might've been in the area on her way to school at the time of the blasts. According to our estimation, her Green Line train was right under Copley Square when the explosions happened. I am so grateful that she checked in, is alright. So grateful that no one I love was caught in the middle of the chaos. My heart aches for everyone who was there, who was affected. And my heart aches especially for our beautiful, elderly city--older than our country--where the people are tough and loving and completely undeserving of this. My heart aches for the people everywhere who are completely undeserving of terror.
But as long as the heart aches, it is still capable of love. So I'm sending love out into the world today, to everyone I can see and hold in person, and to everyone I can never know. I love you. I love Boston.