Monday was a weird day.
I woke up and checked my phone, scrolled through all my friends’ pix of Marathon Monday and felt extremely jealous I wasn’t there for the big day. As I drove to work, three separate cars literally almost smashed into me. I have a 30 minute commute and three different assholes weren’t paying attention to where they were going, and could’ve resulted into a major accident. I was hoping the odd and horrible start wasn’t going to be an indication of the day to come.
About 15 minutes into my shift, my boss came in to tell me two bombs went off at the Marathon and I was shocked at what I saw on TV. I couldn’t believe it. I started to tear up, watching this scene of tired yet accomplished runners crossing the iconic finish line painted onto the Boylston Street pavement, and seconds later a cloud of white smoke and utter chaos erupted. It was all too familiar but foreign at the same time. This warzone was a place I used to frequent almost every day – I worked blocks away from an area where there was now bloodstained sidewalks and undistinguishable debris…
To those who are unfamiliar with exactly how big this day is, I’ll do my best to encapsulate it in a somewhat brief paragraph. Officially titled Patriots Day, this annual state holiday falls on the third Monday of April, when schools and businesses are (for the most part) closed down in honor of the battles during the Revolutionary War. However, this day also marks the day of the Boston Marathon, which is regarded as one of the foremost long-distance running competitions in the world. People from all different countries come to run the 26.2 miles through picturesque eastern Massachusetts. More than 500,000 spectators line the entire course route to cheer on the runners, even if they don’t know anyone running. This is an inspirational day where everyone comes together to celebrate and support each other – it’s really an amazing sight to see. On top of that, the Boston Red Sox have a home game in the morning at Fenway Park, just a stone’s throw away from the marathon finish line. Needless to say, it’s a busy day in the city, and you can feel a different energy in the air. Everywhere you look, there are runners, tourists, baseball fans, college kids, families, etc. who are just excited (and maybe a little drunk from too much celebrating) for the day. Think of it as a small scale version of New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
After learning of the bombings, I scrambled to make sure my friends running in the marathon were ok, constantly checking all forms of social media for any updates on them and all my friends in town. That first hour or two was just making sure I saw the three words on my screen: I Am Okay. Thankfully everyone I know is safe. One of my best friend’s sisters was literally about to turn down Boylston Street but the police stopped her and all the other runners from continuing on. If her pace was just a few minutes faster, she would’ve been crossing that finish line when the bombs went off. The rest of the work day was a mix of wanting to know what was happening but not. I had my TV locked on the news, and my boss, bless him, was trying to make me feel better by continually asking if I was okay, telling me overdramatic people in these situations are the worst and that he had been in Boston years ago and he loved the city (Is that near Cheers? No). Ok cool, thanks, but not helping. Appreciate it, but not helping. I am okay.
I felt helpless, heavy in heart. The only way I can describe it is that I haven’t felt this way since 9/11. I had the feeling that there is only so much you can do when you are miles away from the situation. The feeling that everything you do in your normal routine feels so trivial compared to what people are going through in Boston. The feeling of wanting to continuously cry all day, because someone’s monstrous attack effected the lives of innocent bystanders. The feeling that it could have easily been someone I knew injured or dead, but it was leaving me grateful yet guilty at the same time.
Throughout the day it took every part of me to not break down and cry. I’d see photos of what was leftover from the broken stands and injured spectators. First-hand videos of people running, not knowing where to go, trying to get in touch with loved ones, fear in their eyes. Stories of runners who crossed the finish line, only to go to the hospital to try to help or donate blood. Reports that an eight-year-old boy was among those killed, and many people had to have amputations due to the injuries from flying shrapnel. The tireless policemen, EMTs, first responders, volunteers, anyone and everyone who ran towards the bombs to help rather than run away. Just knowing how absolutely chaotic it must have been around that area is scary enough – I purposely avoided that area because I knew it would be a shitshow of too many people when I lived there. Thousands of people crammed in a fairly small area, not knowing where to go, what to do, how to get to whereever they were going. The subway was shut down, roads were already closed because of the marathon, it must have been just utter devastation. On my timeline, I saw current kids at Emerson, my alma mater, reporting the school was on lockdown. Isn’t “lockdown” just a word the media uses when something like a shooting is happening…? It’s all too unreal and too overwhelming that I won’t let myself focus on it for more than a few minutes at a time. I am okay.
“Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people.” – President Barack Obama
However the one thing that has stuck with me and somewhat helped in coping with this is that Boston is a strong, loyal, kind, city. I know those words aren’t necessarily the first thing you think of when you hear Boston, but it’s true. People may seem like assholes at times, but they’re coming from a good place. It’s one of those, “You can make fun of your own family members, but if an outsider messes with your family, you’re dead meat” type of dynamics. However, it’s not like we’re an exclusive bunch. Boston is a town of transplants and college kids – you stay there for one day and you feel like it’s your home. I lived there for five years, but it feels like I’ve lived there all my life. In some way, I feel like Boston is just as much of a hometown, at times maybe even more so, than the actual town I grew up in. It’s where I found out who I was as an adult, where I made lifelong friendships, experienced life on my own for the first time. So when something like this happens, we are all Bostonians. We help out our own.
“If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out… This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.” – An excerpt from comedian Patton Oswalt’s response to the bombings
The online outreach for my college alone is a testament to how strong the community is, and again made me tear up even more. The Facebook group for alumni was filled with posts asking if everyone was okay – these are people who don’t even necessarily know people at the school anymore! I keep seeing stories of restaurants opening their doors, serving people for free, offering a place to charge cell phones. A former New England Patriots player was spotted carrying an injured woman to safety. People stopping runners on the streets to see if they’re okay or need to use their phone. A woman carrying young kids who were injured and looking for their parents away from the bombing area. We help out our own.
So here we are, enough time has passed that it’s still fresh in our minds but seems so long ago. I feel like I’ll go to sleep and wake up the next day thinking this was all a dream. You hear it all the time when horrible incidents such as this occur. “Not us. Not this town. It could never happen here.” But it did. No matter how many times I see footage of the bomb go off, I don’t think it’s real life. No, that is my hometown. That is a street I have walked countless times. I know that area like the back of my hand. This did not happen. People I know did not escape the incident by mere minutes… I’m in denial, but thankful. Angry, yet reflective. A million different emotions which I can’t fully comprehend. Monday was a weird day – but I – we – are okay.