I felt so guilty for not being in Boston when the bombs went off.
My phone started buzzing when I was out shopping, over a hundred miles from my beloved city. I didn’t want to believe what I was hearing, and I didn’t want to speculate, so I stopped checking social media, vowing to wait three hours to look at online gossip, in hopes the dust – literal and figurative – would have settled by then.
I didn’t know who it was, or why they did it, all I knew is that there had been a terrible attack and that my heart was sunk so low I felt like it was dragging on the ground behind me.
The trope in the following days became “Boston Strong”. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I never really took to that expression, mostly because I don’t know what part of speech is is supposed to be. Is it all an adjective? Is it a noun followed by an adjective, as in romance languages?
I was back in Boston days later for the shelter-in-place request (more commonly referred to as the lockdown). As we all woke up to the news of the overnight firefight my phone started buzzing again. This time, I didn’t answer any messages until I was safely in my apartment for the day – I had the feeling no one would be too happy with the fact that I had driven my sweetheart (a reporter) to the heart of Watertown for his shift that morning.
There was such defiance in those early days. People swore and ranted and proclaimed that we were not hurt, we were not changed. As the weeks wore on and we gobbled up press coverage of survivors and families of victims, as we approached the anniversary of the tragedy and all wanted to be a part of the remembering, I was struck by the contrast between our attention to woundedness and our claims that nothing could touch us. It was as if we were picking at a scab that we insisted wasn’t there.
Boston is strong. I noticed it during the days of the lockdown, which everyone approached with an attitude of collective duty. We stayed in not out of fear but because our elected officials asked us to, telling us that would be our way of helping with the manhunt.
Boston is strong because medical professionals who had already finished the marathon ran back to the finish line when they heard there were dozens of trauma victims there. Boston is strong because we held countless fundraisers to provide money for prosthetics and accessibility upgrades in the homes of the injured. Boston is strong because we wrote notes to people who were hurting. Boston is strong because we thanked our first responders.
What makes Boston strong is not our resolve or resilience, though those are admirable qualities. What makes Boston strong is our people, eager to care for one another, eager to lend our small gifts to work on the side of the angels.
For this end, we must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body… For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us…Therefore let us choose life, that we and our seed may live. – Gov. John Winthrop, 1630
My love and prayers to those running and assisting with the Boston Marathon today.
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Photo credit: Robert Goulston