Bit of a rough week, guys, eh?
One week ago, families and friends of Boston Marathoners were making signs, setting up rides into the city, getting excited to cheer on the people they love and the causes in which they believe.
Runners themselves were busy stuffing their faces with pizza, pasta, bread and other delicious carb-y delights.
There was a buzz in the air.
The Boston Marathon is not only the oldest marathon, but I believe it is the only one that has always been attached to a holiday. That’s right, Massachusetts celebrates Patriots Day, a commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord – the first battles of the revolution. But which also means a day off from school and most jobs, allowing everyone to be in the city to cheer on the race, which is always held on the same day.
Marathon Monday, as we call it, is a Big Deal. Like, right up there with opening day for the Red Sox. That kind of Big Deal.
I was extra excited this year because a lifelong friend, Molly, was running with my name on her back. She was running to raise money for Dana-Farber in my honor. (Sidenote: If you click on the link you can still donate through mid-May!) To say I was touched is an understatement.
Last Monday, as a Masshole living in New York, I had to mainly rely on my parents to tell me how the race was going. They had it playing live on TV and were also using an app that tracked Molly using her bib number and displayed a tiny red running person moving along the route. My mom was also texting with Molly’s mom, as they attempted to find parking and get to the finish line before their daughter crossed it.
Suddenly I had a text message from my mom saying “get out of that area asap.”
What????, I replied, thinking she had seen something bad happening in NYC on the news, since she knew I was walking to a doctor’s appointment.
I called my parents and they told me that they had just watched two explosions at the finish line. I realized that my mom was trying to tell Molly’s mom to get Molly and get the heck out of there. Walking down the street, past New Yorkers that hadn’t heard anything yet, I probably just looked like a woman in the midst of a break up – crying on the sidewalk with a phone pressed to my ear while saying ‘I don’t understand. Why?’
But it was obviously much bigger than that. And even bigger than we all understood at the time.
After an hour of panicked texts and phone calls, we finally got the all clear that Molly had been found and was safely with her parents. I cried again with relief and with that release that happens after holding your breath because it’s possible something really bad happened, but you come to find it was very narrowly avoided. The fear washes back over you almost as strongly on the way out as it did on the way in.
Once I had the boys asleep that night, I stayed glued to the news. I cried for the people killed, the ones who were maimed and the city as a whole. I did feel that wave of panic that this is the world into which I brought children, but somehow that wasn’t my main emotion with this tragedy. Newtown, threats of nuclear war, global warming, watching a movie where a teenage boy gets beat to a bloody pulp all give me that immobilizing fear that my children’s world will be a horrible world. I understand all of the blog posts about how this bombing created that feeling in many parents. I get the resolutions to hug our children more, yell less, focus on what’s important. But with total transparency, I tell you I was no better mother on Monday than I ever am. Of course I hugged my kids, but I also gave two time outs, raised my voice way more than I wish I had and still checked Facebook before my kids were asleep. I was far from a perfect parent, just as I always am. I am a worry wort by nature and already fill my brain daily with all of the horrible things that could happen to my kids. I grew up in a town where we had already buried several classmates by hig school graduation and many, many more by the time we were in our twenties. Tragic death, unfair circumstances, awful mistakes, life changing poor choices, freak accidents or events? Those are so ingrained in me as a person that they can’t help but be ingrained in me as a parent.
But for some reason this tragedy didn’t take me there as much as it fueled this intense ache for Boston. For Massachusetts. For everyone who was there that day. It made me understand so clearly that even if I left at 18, even if I never felt like I quite fit in, even if I can’t list every Red Sox player, that is my home. And I suddenly wanted to be home so badly.
We tend to be very puritan up there. There isn’t much passion or emotion shown on a daily basis. That’s what all the drinking is for. That’s what the sports team obsession is for. That’s what tattoos are for. I’m not saying everyone from Massachusetts is this way and I’m not saying it’s the healthiest thing in the world. I am just saying that it’s my interpretation of our sub-culture in general. And with that in mind, I ached even more, wondering how people would face this level of atrocity, of horror, of pain.
As I am sure you know if you watched the news at all, Boston quickly proved it knew exactly how to handle a situation like this. Marathon runners ran an additional two miles to go donate blood, first-responders and civilians alike ran toward the mayhem and destruction to save whomever they could, and people who lived nearby offered up couches, guest beds and food to those who were stranded or not allowed back into their hotels.
Here is the thing about places and people that sometimes seem less touchy feely, emotional, mushy, or expressive…it’s usually because they don’t need to be. They know what they are made of; they don’t need to wax poetic about it. Bostonians made it clear through their actions that they have heart. Anyone who grew up in Massachusetts already knew this, but the world was able to see it loud and clear this week.
I felt so proud to claim it as my hometown.
As the week wore on and became stranger and stranger, culminating in 24 hours of even more tragic horror, nobody stopped showing their true colors. Police orders and requests were followed, tips were given, suspects were found. And at the end of it all, as the lock down was lifted, people then came outside and stood in the streets to clap and cheer for all of the many branches of police, medical personal, federal agents and firemen as they finally were able to retreat.
Helping people, giving whatever was needed and whatever they had to give, following orders, cooperating, supporting, showing thanks, connecting: what more could you ask for during a week of terror? Unfortunately, the bombers partially succeeded. They killed innocent people, they maimed and injured many others, and they caused so many people sadness and fear. But their bigger probable missions of destroying the marathon, creating immobilizing fear, breaking down a group of people, and hurting this city and country were not achieved. Everyone feels deep sadness for the families who are grieving, but we feel that sadness cohesively. Every response I heard or saw was compassionate, passionate, strong and determined. We are not broken or splintered. The bombers didn’t even come close to winning. And I felt so much pride strutting my boys around all week in their Red Sox caps because of all of that.
You all deserved the ‘wicked hahd pahtyin’ Brian Williams proposed may have taken place Friday night.
Much love Boston.