Posts Tagged ‘boston marathon

I always feel unqualified to write about national tragedies from the perspective of someone who’s only seen it on the news (though I pray I’ll never have to experience one myself).  Why would my thoughts matter to anyone when I can just turn off the news and return to everyday life, but there are so many suffering unimaginably from these events, who will never be able to forget this day for the rest of their lives?    
But all humanity is connected, and when one group suffers, so do we all.  So these are just some thoughts I need to let out, in light of this week.  Maybe someone reading this will be comforted that we’re all having the same experience here.  Reading and writing can be equally cathartic.  There is healing in the act of storytelling.    

First of all, it’s so surreal to know that the entire world is praying for Boston, this city I have called home for almost two years.  And that the site of this bombing, a disaster heard around the world, was not some foreign country or even another region of America — it was a corner on a beautiful street that I know and love, where just a few weeks ago I strolled with my family when they visited, and where I was even planning to venture out this weekend.  This is the first time I have been so close to the epicenter of a disaster.      

Every generation has its “where were you when?…” national tragedy that becomes a defining event.  For our parents it was JFK’s assassination.  For my generation, there have been too many to count, and far too many in the past year alone.  Aurora, Newtown, and now this. 
Where was I then?  Monday I was in journalism class, and we were all distracted on the Internet.  The sports fans among us were tracking the marathon.  Then there was news of an explosion, and I remember the exact moment when it clicked in my mind, “Oh G-d, this isn’t some small accident, this a major event, the whole world is hearing about it right now, I need to call Mom and Dad and tell them I’m all right.”  And of course my mom was sitting in her car listening to CNN, according to my brother.  Even from 800 miles away, I could hear her praying for my safety.  Calling my dad every five minutes with updates, waiting by the phone to hear my voice.  That’s what it is to be part of a family like mine.     
And the rest is a blur.  I remember waiting to hear from my roommate, a volunteer EMT (who wasn’t at the marathon), if the four other EMTs there were all right.  There was a block of time when they couldn’t be reached.  I’m sure if G-d had a hotline, all the phone lines would have been clogged with the number of incoming prayers that afternoon.    
I will always remember how the Brandeis community came together as one, putting aside all the stress and commitments of the coming week.  I will remember 20 of us, some close friends, others just seeking togetherness, watching the news together, speechless and hugging in Hillel Lounge.  I will remember how one friend took it upon himself to hold his own peace vigil that night, and the community came together for one hosted by the chaplaincy the next day. 
I will remember the people who became lights in the darkness on yet another dark day: the runners who finished the marathon and promptly went to give blood for the victims.  Tragedy is a paradox.  It happens because of the worst of humanity, but its aftermath brings out the best in us too.       

Now I have never been more thankful that:

-This campus is tucked away safely in the suburbs
-Texting, email, and social media do serve a useful purpose: they are efficient to communicate with family and friends when you’ve been instructed not to clog the telephone lines
-Old friends who I haven’t even seen in a long time still cared enough to check on me and make sure I was safe that day
I think there are several stages of grief that hit all of America when a mass tragedy happens.  
There is the shock and disbelief that it could happen (especially there), the anger towards society (and the loss of faith in humanity), the outpouring of empathy and desire to do whatever is possible to help the victims, and eventually, the forgetting.  If we haven’t been personally affected, we move on, until the cycle begins again a few months later.  At least this year, that is the case.      
“There are no answers, but it does not mean we can stop asking the questions.”  These were the closing words at the Holocaust memorial vigil last week, and they are especially true now.  We must ask why this happened, and try to prevent another event.  And we must come back stronger from this.  The perpetrators may have claimed that day, but we will not let them take the spirit of this wonderful city.  Boston will rise again.