I was born in Beth Israel Hospital, and lived just outside of Boston until I was 5. I went to high school in Concord, and when I was a teenager, me and my friends used to spend the weekends in Boston and Cambridge. We used to get sushi in Porter Square, flip through the new CDs at Newbury Comics, and have dinner in the North End. I am a die-hard Patriots fan. My family is scattered around the city in small towns and suburbs. Though I lived many places growing up, whenever someone asks me where I’m from, my answer is Boston.
I was less than 20 miles outside of Boston on September 11th, 2001. One of the kids that held me as I cried then ran today in Boston.
Just a week before, he and I chatted over sushi here in Hawaii. He had come out for a conference, and we talked for hours, catching up on everything that had changed in the decade or so since we saw each other last. We had been on the cross country team together briefly in high school (when I foolishly attempted to become a runner). Unlike me, he’s a natural runner. Always one of the first to finish for our school, his passion for the sport has only grown over time. He gushed to me about the upcoming marathon, with excitement lighting his eyes. Running the Boston Marathon is a point of pride for any runner. Since you have to qualify to get in, even being allowed to run is considered an honor. But today, the finish line normally filled with sweat, relief and joy became a gruesome crime scene.
Thankfully, my friend finished long before the bombs went off.
When I heard about what happened, my gut immediately tightened, and I erupted into tears. I have countless family and friends in the Boston area, and immediately, I started the mental list of who I needed to check in on. The classmate that ran — check. A friend who works in the area — check. One of my closest friends and his partner — check. Classmates, colleagues, family, friends — check, check, check, check. I turned to facebook and twitter, relieved to see so many updates from people who are safe, telling their loved ones that they’re ok. Too many, though, were stories of near misses. People that happened to be working from home instead of the office, runners that finished early or never got the chance to, friends that almost went to cheer them on.
I cannot begin to understand the mind of someone who would do something like this, though certainly scientists have tried.
Some are questioning whether what happened should be labeled a terrorist attack. When a series of bombs explode in streets crowded with innocent people, though, there can be no mistaking the goal. Whoever placed these bombs wanted to hurt us. They timed the attack not to hit the first place racers, but when many more would be crossing the finish line. They blew up crowds of spectators and athletes, regardless of age, sex, race or religion. They stole lives and limbs. They took a day of celebration and forged one of gruesome violence. For whatever reason, whatever cause they sought to further or message they sought to send, they meant to incite terror. They wanted to fill our hearts with fear and rage, to twist our thoughts to hatred and retaliation.
We cannot let them have that. We cannot let them win.
Reactions like Erik Rush’s won’t help anything. We don’t know who chose to commit this terrible act, but we will, and when we do, they will be punished. As Obama promised, “make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this… We will find out who did this, and we will hold them accountable.” In the meantime, turning on anyone before those facts come in, blaming religious or political groups without any evidence, or making broad threats will only serve to worsen what has happened. If there is one thing that horrific events like this one teach us, it is that hatred is a powerful and destructive force. No good can come of letting ourselves be blinded by it. We will not, as a nation, be coerced to become as twisted as those who placed the bombs today. We cannot.
What I have seen more than anything over the past few hours are outpourings of love and support. People around the world are expressing their honest concern and hope for the people of Boston and the families and friends of everyone involved. That is what we need.
There will always be bullies. There will always be extremists whose thoughts are so distorted by hate that they lose their very humanity, making them capable of unspeakable crimes. There will always be tragedies, and though we hope to prevent as many as we can, we will never be able to prevent them all. But there will also always be reasons to hope and love. There will always be everyday heroes, from the first responders who bandaged at the blast site to the nurses and doctors still tirelessly striving to save lives. There will always be those who risk their own safety to help those in need. There will always be selfless, kind, caring people, and those people far outweigh the few monsters who commit acts like this.
My heart is with you, Boston. Though my body is 6,000 miles away, my heart is home.
- Can’t find someone? Google has set up a people finder to track down missing loved ones
- Anyone trapped by the race or living in the area with a couch to spare, go to the Boston Globe-run form to let others know
- Mayor’s hotline for people looking for friends/family: 617-635-4500
- Anyone with videos/pictures of the route call 800-494-TIPS or the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (prompt #3)