April 19, 2013
Reflections While Boston, My Old Hood, Is Under Attack
Being on the road and in back-to-back meetings for the last three days, I haven’t had time to digest and process the Boston Marathon incident until tonight. In fat I heard about it during a meeting with a media buddy who was late to the lunch since he was covering the story and had to file before leaving the office. His brow was strained as he said, “sorry I’m late, but I was buried deep in the Boston tragedy.”
My heart raced…..he didn’t at first mention the Marathon, so after my mind darted from massive fire to another shooting along the lines of what happened in a Colorado theatre, he went on, seeing that I hadn’t had heard the news. I heard fragments: Bombs. Finish Line. Terrorism I asked? Chris didn’t know.
Since Boston had been my home for many years and I have experienced Boylston Street’s chaotic crowds for many a’ Spring watching friends and even on one occasion, a boyfriend cross the finish line. I worked with the Massachusetts Association for the Blind when I was in my twenties, while living there, and even watched blind runners I was helping to raise money for equipment they needed, cross that very same finish line.
Personally, I’ve never been a runner so have never quite understood the intense satisfaction and glorious reward a runner must feel after so much training, to then “high five” loved ones as he or she made it to the end, some not quite knowing they would. I’ve known many people participate over the years – some of them trying to improve their time from the previous year, some trying to prove that they had the endurance to make it at all, and others who flew in from other cities because they considered the Boston Marathon a race they must do at least once in their lifetime.
In my later Boston years, we stopped going every year since as I grew older, fewer and fewer people I knew participated and more often than not, friends wanted to avoid the crowds and the chaos of what those crowds brought, none of which is the chaos that poor Boston experienced this year. It wasn’t unlike New Yorker’s fleeing the city during New Year’s Eve or local Brazilians heading to the country at Carnival time.
That said, my early Boston Marathon memories are precious – we were young and so we’d do anything to support our friends and their causes, adventures and missions in life. When Chris referenced the Marathon as the location for the tragedy (oh god, terrorism my mind raced), I realized that my insanely overbooked schedule of the forthcoming few days wouldn’t allow me to digest this incident in a way I desperately wanted to and needed to.
And so, like doctors who deal with the dying every day, and can’t get emotional about every patient they treat, I forced myself to feel very little for 48 hours so I wouldn’t let emotion prohibit (in a way) my ability to execute the insane schedule I spent nearly 80 hours creating, with very little sleep in the process.
I nodded and shook my head in disbelief like every other American in our path over the last three days, but I kept those nods superficial to myself, for I knew that diving into the photos, the interviews and the stories of the victims, survivors and families which I spent time doing last night, would distract me too much to succeed in the delicate execution of a “schedule”, the one people were counting on me to deliver.
And so, I didn’t spend time reflecting on Boston like I did tonight, fighting the tears until I couldn’t fight them anymore, as I scrolled through photo after photo, seeing faces of dead children and twenty year old vibrant faces who never finished their lives, and all for what? And, then to see a visual of 27-year old Jeff Bauman’s tattered bloody limbs as he left the scene after a bomb blew his lower half to pieces, was enough to put anyone over the edge. I realized that I heard about 9/11 while shifting furniture around in my Boston apartment with an old high school friend from upstate New York. The phone rang. An old boyfriend from many moons ago. Australian. The line was muffled. Not clear. Slightly breathless, he asked if I was okay. Not a man to ramble, he began to, until I stopped him and said whoah, slow down. He spoke of bombs, of terrorism, of massive buildings collapsing. New York City. I heard snippets most of which bypassed my memory bank because all of seemed so Hollywood to me, so much so that I dismissed it as some “down under” TV sensationalism that was over exaggerating America’s sense of media humor. Then his voice became serious. Turn on the F-G TV and so I did and…..when I did, I still dismissed it. It must be some movie re-run of sorts I thought, until I saw that we were on CNN and then suddenly began to absorb what I had just heard.
I tried not to go to that place when I heard about the explosion, for when I lived in London, I prepared myself for several years of urban life in the city which consisted of occasional IRA explosions in bars, trains and on busy streets. I had lived in Johannesburg when bombs went off less than a mile away from the ritziest suburbs of the city….close enough where you could see smoke filling the air from the after maths while wealthy whites (at the time) sipped Sauvignon Blanc from crystal and ate strawberries with whipped cream as the men prepared a“braai” in the background. I lived in Israel at a time that was considered safer than others, but never entirely safe and within months, not years, friends I left behind were buying designer gas masks, something which became part of their every day life.
Maybe it’s not the kind of terrorism that we all fear most, the foreign kind from “over there,” in the religious lands American natives can’t get their heads around. And, maybe it is. We still don’t know, but those details right now don’t comfort those whose family members lost someone on April 15 near or on the finish line on Boston’s Boylston Street. All they can and must feel, is pain, terror, anger and excruciating loss of a senseless death of someone close to them.
A few days into the incident, more than sixty victims of Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon remain hospitalized, including a dozen who are in critical condition. Seeing the faces of those who are no longer with us — Lu Lingzi, a 23-year-old Boston University student from China; 8-year-old spectator Martin Richard; and 29-year-old spectator Krystle Campbell — brought tears to my eyes just when I thought I could shoo them away. As I dove deeper into stories, I learned that more than 170 people – runners, couples, spectators, children – were injured, some in critical condition and some who have lost limbs or senses. From a hairstylist on upscale Newbury Street, to an 11 year old with serious leg wounds and newlyweds who both lost their left legs below the knee, they are among dozens and dozens whose lives will be forever changed.
And for what? We are all asking ourselves that question. For what purpose? What message is it that they are trying to convey? Who are they trying to scare and why? What does this victimization and terror that they have created do for them and for those who are spearheading potentially a greater and much more dangerous mission?
Dr. Oz spoke about love and how love and community will be the healing factor necessary for this community. President Obama praised Boston’s resilience, their compassion and their strength. The community has bonded together people say, in a way that New Yorker’s did after 9/11. Americans are not accustomized to terrorism on their own soil — not before 9/11 and not after, until now…..if this is in fact what it is. This country may forever be changed if subsequent incidents become part of every day life, as they have in Ireland, London, Israel, South Africa and other volatile places in the world.
On this white slab of paper which isn’t really paper, but a glaring white digital screen that calls for my feelings to be conveyed, I write and write and write and this is what pours out on this very sad evening as I reflect on those we have lost and those who loved and knew those we as a nation have lost. I embrace you Boston, my old home, and send you strength, courage, love and faith, to get through this tragic time, a city poorly chosen as Obama had said, but one which will endure and hopefully heal with much support from communities around this resilient country.
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