I admit this is a rather self-indulgent post, but one that I’ve waited a long time before writing. After the events in Boston on the third week of April 2013 there were so many posts, and blogs, and I wanted to react. My twitter feed and Facebook accounts will indicate that I did often. But I hesitated in writing my own blog post which would add to the noise. But I realize in the more than 3 months since that indescribable week, I still discover new feelings and emotions and thoughts on those events, and the varied responses since that week. I had the season finale of “Boston’s Finest” on my DVR, and finally watched it last week. I didn’t realize it aired the week of the bombings and was shocked to see the opening screen honoring the victims and first-responders. Last night a local nightly program featured the healing process of survivors 100 days since their lives were changed by the events of April 15. I’m sitting here editing this post wearing my Life Is Good Boston shirt the back of it reads “Nothing is Stronger than Love” Boston has always been strong, is certainly stronger today, but Love is the strongest force in all of this. Here’s the first part of my reflections on the week that changed the city I love more than any other.
Some of the roots of my reaction, as I’m guessing is the case for many others can be found 12 years ago. It was a beautiful Tuesday my freshman year of college. I had my first class, and was thrilled that my second class- a writing class including a creative writing assignment where we got to work on it outside. I saw a campus facilities truck drive up to the flag pole, and lower the flag to half mast. All the campus vehicles moving around campus all had talk radio on, and it all sounded very frantic. Something wasn’t right. I began to have a very unsettled feeling as I realized how quiet campus was except the frantic talk radio on the maintenance trucks. It was Sept 11, and I’m sure you can figure out the rest of the story. While I grew up with the evening news on at home every night, this event turned me into a news junkie. I never wanted to be in a place of confusion and uncertainty. MSNBC became my homepage. I realize it’s all about being a control freak which is strange because once I knew about the heartbreaking things happening in the world (I think of many events of natural disaster coverage) I felt even more helpless for not being able to do anything about what was going on. After that day, I remember how going into Boston changed. In the days after 9/11 there was a lot of worry in many metro areas across the country. But after 12 years the thoughts of “could it happen in Boston?” weren’t as prominent as they once were.
So with my news-junkie self in the habit of keeping an eye on local coverage, I watched the end of the Marathon coverage on TV this Patriots Day, like I always have. I had just come back from a trip to California, and had gotten up early to work at the Y to make up for the shift I missed the week before. I put my head down for a little nap, waking up shortly after my alarm went off at 2:45 p.m. I flipped on the TV to find something to put on while I started some chores. The explosions had just happened, and I was certain that it had to be related to problems with utilities. This neighborhood in Boston has had struggles with transformer and underground power lines frequently over the past year or so. I couldn’t fathom it could have been deliberate. When my husband called me to see if I had heard, and to see if I knew if all my friends in the city were okay, I realized this might really be more than issues with the utilities. I don’t know why bad people like to do bad things on the third week of April, but growing up in MA I was never in school this week and was used to seeing coverage of these things on TV. I think of Waco, the OKC bombings, and Columbine. But those were always somewhere else. This was in “MY” city. The street I’ve strolled countless times, where my friends live and work… and run… and cheer on runners. When the aerial video showed the red stains on the sidewalk I almost lost my lunch and I wanted to cry- but was too shocked.
I have never experienced the double-edged sword that is the internet so clearly as this day. I was blessed to have the tools of Facebook to hear from all of my Boston area friends- marathon runners, spectators, and residents. The BU School of Theology Community banded together via social media in a way which was quick and caring. Then there were the reactions of hatred and ignorance. That afternoon, while there was still so much confusion and uncertainty, I also realized I should be a voice for my church family, as our Pastor was away. I had kids in my ministry who had parents who were working in the Back Bay when these things happened, and I knew there was a good chance I’d need to provide a chance for them to process what’s going on. Then there was the fear of opening my email box or answering my phone- fear that it would be news of someone we know hurt in the blast, and praying for the many pastors and youth workers who DID get that email or call.
These events changed how I feel about being addicted to staying connected to what’s going on in the news cycle, and challenged me to consider how followers of Jesus should respond as a voice of peace in the chaos. I will write about those things in the days ahead. For now, I’ll conclude this post with the words I shared with my church community in the hours following the explosions in Boston.
Praying for our beloved city of Boston. Sometimes, there are no words to express our confusion and sorrow, no easy answers for how to face situations such as these. We must seek to cling to love.