It hasn’t really sunk in yet that the bombing all over the news and the pictures that look like a war zone are from something that happened here, in my city, at a race that many people I know were running or watching and that I’ve attended myself multiple times. My friends, as far as I know, are all unharmed, but many other people can’t say the same.
I grew up watching the Boston Marathon. Marathon Monday is always on Patriots Day, a holiday commemorating the start of the American Revolution that falls on the third Monday of April and is only celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine. (My dad, a native of Lexington, where the Revolution started, thought Patriots Day was second to Christmas when he was growing up. He wants it to be a national holiday, but this was definitely not the way we’d prefer for the rest of the country to find out about it.) It’s always during school vacation, since Massachusetts public schools get the week of Patriots Day off. In college, we always had the day off because BC is at Mile 21 of the marathon, and people would start drinking early, put on their summer clothes, and cheer on their friends who were running, many of whom were running it for BC’s Campus School. My first two years out of college, I lived just about at the top of Heartbreak Hill, and I could see the runners going by from my bedroom window. My sister ran for the Campus School a few years ago, and my parents and aunt and I went to watch her at the finish line.
I tell you all this just to get across that everyone in the Boston area has some kind of association with the Boston Marathon—these are just mine. It’s a huge part of living here. Every Bostonian who wasn’t on the marathon route today knew someone who was. It’s not only a state holiday but it’s a day that’s supposed to be fun, joyous, and full of personal triumph, and a day we share with runners and their families from around the world.
I can’t begin to imagine the horror that the victims and their families are going through right now or how awful it must have been to be there when the explosions happened. And I think it might actually be worse for Bostonians who aren’t in Boston right now—like I said, it’s school vacation week, so a lot of people are on vacation, including my parents.
Bostonians can sometimes get a bad rap, for reasons that are somewhat deserved—we’re reserved and unfriendly, our sports fans are obnoxious, we put lawn chairs in parking spaces after snowstorms and then fight over them. But the silver lining of tragedies like this one is that they bring out the best in people, and I am really heartened by the stories I’ve heard about people rushing to help at the scene, running right from the finish line to donate blood, and offering housing to runners who, due to the crime scene being sorted out, no longer have a place to stay. (They’re now saying they have enough blood donations, but that it would help to have more donors in coming weeks, so consider doing that!)
Right now, we don’t know who did this or why. We do know that the response was swift and that, as President Obama said today, “Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people.”
I’ve never lived anywhere but the Boston area and I never will. I have so much love for this city—and despite our reputation, today proved that there’s also plenty of love inthis city.
Pray for the victims and for the city, everyone.