The first time I saw Boston, I was ten years old. It was the biggest city I’d ever seen, then, and I loved it at first sight. I imbued it with magic. The skyscrapers, the old brownstones, the cobbled alleyways behind Faneuil Hall, the golden dome of the state house, the swan boats in the public garden, the huge reflecting pool of the Christian Sciene pavilion. Right then and there – I kid you not – I decided that one day I would live there.
I made that dream come true when I accepted my offer from Boston University. From my dorm room window freshman year, I could look out and see the glittering Hancock Building and the Pru in Back Bay. When I felt depressed – I felt depressed a lot, that year, because my parents were divorcing – I would look out at that view and it reminded me of why I was there, of everything I wanted to do.
Over the next four years and more, Boston was home. I grew intimate with the city I’d once mythologized, and I learned that part of loving Boston is hating Boston – hating the weather, hating the T, hating the crumbling student apartments and money-grubbing landlords of Allston and Brighton. There’s a sense of camaraderie in the city that comes from those shared things. It’s not a big city. You can walk from one end of it to the other in an hour or so.
Boston was my life. My life was Boston. My friends, my job, my first lover. I watched Sox games because it was what you did. And I learned about Marathon Monday, the best day of the year. The holiday when everyone gets together with friends, when you go out on the streets and drink and cheer on the runners. It’s hard to explain the day to non-Bostonians. It’s special. It’s ours. I miss Boston all the time, since I left, but I never miss it more than on Marathon Monday.
Yesterday, when Greg told me that bombs went off at the finish line – I couldn’t quite comprehend it. I watched the spotty footage and photographs coming in. When I saw the one of the bloodstained sidewalk, it finally sunk in. And I felt the ice-cold grip of fear. And I thought suddenly of all the people I love who still live in that city. Friends, teachers, and dozens – literally dozens – of my former students, from Greenwood and Interlochen, who now attend NEC and Berklee, right around the corner from the bombing site. I thought, I have to get to my phone, stood up abruptly, and knocked over my iced tea all over the coffee table.
Yesterday was a long, awful day. Waiting and calling and texting and re-loading facebook and twitter for hours. Every time I’d confirm that one person was all right, I’d think of another. Thank goodness, everyone I love is all right. But so many of them could so easily have been there, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
I always feel terrible when tragedies happen. Like the Newtown shootings last December, or the Aurora massacre last summer. But this was different. This felt so personal. I couldn’t think of anything else.
I woke up today still feeling the same way – shocked, appalled, angry, and sad. I don’t want to do anything but be in Boston today. When someone you love is hurt and grieving, you want to be with them. I hate that I can’t be.
Last spring in Chicago, there was a big political summit, and for months beforehand all we heard on the news was talk of security preparations. If a bomb had gone off then, it still would have been terrible, and tragic, but it wouldn’t have been so shocking. The Marathon is apolitical in the best sense.
I keep telling myself that I have no reason to be so shaken up, not really. Not compared to the people who were there, the people who lost limbs, the people who lost loved ones. But the truth is – I am reeling. I don’t feel like I belong in Raleigh. I don’t want to be here today.
All I could think to do today was wear my Boston University sweatshirt. How ridiculous is that? How miniscule, how helpless, how pitiful. But it’s the only thing I can do, so I’m doing it. For Boston.