You can’t remember so many bad things ever happening in such a short amount of time. Information keeps coming in about the bombing at the marathon and the people who were killed and wounded. All of your friends who were at the marathon (it is not an exaggeration to say that EVERYONE in Boston knows someone who was there) are uninjured, but the stories of people who were hurt are hard to hear. You remember how when events with mass casualties happened in the past, you tried to think of who you knew who could have been hurt—on September 11th, your cousin who often flew from Boston to LA, and when the shooting in Arizona happened, your friend who lived in Tucson. You had to wait to hear if those people were okay.
Now it’s your turn. You’re the one people are trying to get in touch with to make sure you’re okay. You’re the one getting texts from your parents, sister, aunts, cousins, friend who’s on vacation, friend in Seattle, friend in DC. It’s not some distant event that you’re mildly disturbed by and think about occasionally—it’s here. It’s your city, your people.
And despite the acts of kindness that are reassuring you of the goodness of people out there, this week of tragedy keeps getting worse. Poisoned letters are sent to President Obama and a Mississippi senator. A plant explodes in Texas, killing and injuring dozens of people. The bill for background checks on guns fails in the Senate, which makes you so angry you’re afraid to talk about it for fear of saying something you’ll regret. Something else in your own world that you don’t want to talk about publicly—something not on par with everything else but still pretty awful— also happens this week.
You don’t think things could get worse…and then they do.
* * *
Before you go to bed Thursday night, you hear that an MIT police officer has been shot, then that he was killed. You’ve seen the photos the FBI released of the two suspects and note that there’s nothing distinctive about either of them—they could be anyone. You wonder, before you go to bed, if this shooting is related to the bombings or if it’s yet another unrelated tragedy in a terrible week.
Friday morning, when you finally drag yourself out of bed after hitting snooze several times and start to get dressed, it occurs to you to check the news and see what the latest is on the bombing suspects, so you pick up your new iPhone.
You don’t make it to the news. Your phone has blown up with text messages and voicemails almost as numerous as they were on Monday after the bombing. Dazed, you check the computer and try to make sense out of the hell that’s broken loose while you were asleep. Your office is closed. The T has shut down. Cambridge is one of several cities and towns on lockdown. You’re not supposed to leave the house.
You stumble downstairs and turn on the TV, bringing your laptop with you and trying to get yourself up to speed. They think the suspect is in Watertown, not very close to you, but who really knows? You see pictures the news crew has from around the city. Boston, on a workday when people are normally rushing around and doing their day-to-day thing, looks post-apocalyptic. This, oddly, is just as scary as anything else.
Your fright turns to impatience when you realize that it might be awhile before they catch the guy. The news starts repeating the same things they’ve already said. You go to the back porch to read the paper. You answer work emails from your customers, who all live out of state and have probably forgotten where you live. You talk to your parents, who are flying home from their vacation in Florida. You have a long chain of text messages going with three friends, and your discussion of the news coverage is interspersed with talk of guys, one friend’s cat, and the Geek Squad at Best Buy. You get annoyed when you realize that you barely have any food in the house and can’t even order takeout because businesses are all closed. You get more annoyed when you realize what a nice day it is and how great it would be for running but you’re now stuck inside because of some murderous assholes. Then you feel guilty for being so annoyed at little inconveniences when everyone you know survived the bombing unscathed and so many other people can’t say that.
Around 6:30 they hold a news conference where they tell people the lockdown is over but the suspect has not yet been apprehended. You’re still nervous but dying to get out of the house, and since the T’s running again, you and your friends start making plans for drinks and dessert. As you’re getting ready to go out, you see something happening on the TV. It’s clear now that they’ve found the guy, and you and your friends immediately postpone your plans. You keep texting each other new things that you hear. You keep on watching until finally it’s over and the suspect is captured.
On Saturday, you get up, get dressed, and head out for the plans you didn’t get to last night. You drink multiple glasses of wine at lunch and buy cupcakes from a bakery. You and your friends head into the city and see the makeshift memorial set up on Boylston Street. Several blocks are still shut down. There are some adorable therapy dogs over by the memorial that you and your friends pet. The dogs look tired—like everyone else, they’ve had a long week.
Saturday night you sleep for twelve hours straight.
* * *
So much goes through your mind this week. While you don’t know any victims personally, little connections keep startling you. Jeff Bauman is from your hometown and was two years behind you at your high school. Patrick Downes graduated from BC a year ahead of you, and many of your friends know him. Sean Collier lived near you, on a street your roommate walks the dog down every day. They’re jolting details, but you have to keep reminding yourself that it wouldn’t be any less tragic if it had happened to people who come from some place you’ve never heard of. You know it will be hard to remember this the next time something tragic happens somewhere that’s not here.
You try to piece together the bits of information you keep hearing about these two brothers, everything their friends and relatives say, trying to make sense of what could have led them to do this before ultimately concluding that you never will, because dropping bombs on a crowd of people at a marathon will never make any sense.
Humor is one of the only things keeping you sane. You’ve always liked The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but you usually only tune in after some kind of major current event, like to see what Jon Stewart has to say about the presidential election. But this week, watching Comedy Central is getting you through the day. And aside from every other awesome thing they do this week, their Boston tributes are especially gratifying. This clip from Colbert manages to be hilarious while also getting Boston exactly right.
[hulu id=pi5tsuwrierrkrzc3_8vyq width=512]
You feel profound gratitude for everyone who helped put an end to the manhunt that dominated Friday. You’re horrified when you think about the guy who found the suspect hiding in his boat and how scary that must have been.
You wonder how long it will be before Hollywood makes a movie out of all this.
You stop talking in the second person.
* * *
There are so many ways a person can use the word “love,” so I need to get across what I mean when I say I love Boston. A lot of people say they love their hometown but still roll their eyes at it, as if their love is like the love they’d have for a parent who means well but doesn’t understand them at all, like Emily on Gilmore Girls. But Boston, for me, is not Emily Gilmore—it’s Lorelai Gilmore, the mom you can’t believe you were lucky enough to be born to. Boston may have been the city I fell into because it’s so close to where I grew up, but that’s not why I stay here. I stay here because there’s no city in the world I could ever love more.
I love that it’s full of colleges and therefore full of people who are here for education, people who are intelligent, people with ambition, people who want to go on to do great things. I love that it’s so easy to get around on foot. I love the passion people have for sports teams—one of my fondest memories of college was watching the whole city erupt in happiness after the Sox won the World Series for the first time in eighty-six years. I love that people who are liberal and open-minded are the rule rather than the exception here. I love that so many big moments in American history occurred here. I love that so many funny people grew up here—Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Conan O’Brien, Mindy Kaling, just to name a few. I love that Boston inspired movies like Good Will Hunting and The Departed. I love that we have good seafood. I love walking down Newbury Street, getting a cannoli in the North End, taking a ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands, spending an afternoon at the Museum of Science or the Aquarium or the MFA. I love that we have independent bookstores and artsy little movie theaters. I love that it’s not far from the ocean or the mountains. I love that you don’t need a car to live here. I love that we have four distinct seasons, unlike so many other parts of the country. I love that it’s such a foodie city that I feel like my list of restaurants to try will never end. I love the view as I’m going over the river on the Red Line. I love the Boston Globe. I love that the local furniture companies keep trying to outdo each other with their TV commercials. I love that our medical care is among the best in the world—I know multiple people who might not have survived some scary health issues if not for the excellent medical care they received here. I love that the people here respect each other’s space but won’t hesitate to help someone in need—a quality on display in all its glory this week.
“This is our fucking city,” Big Papi so eloquently put it at the Sox game on Saturday. And it’s MY fucking city, too. I have no desire to live anywhere but the Boston area for the rest of my life, and it’s too bad it took a week of tragedy to remind me why.