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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Responding to the tragic events in Boston

Published: April 19, 2013
Section: Opinions

I still remember getting the first text. It was around three o’clock when a friend I had not texted within months asked me if I was all right. The message was quite unexpected at the time. I wondered if someone had hacked my Facebook to create some fake crisis, or if perhaps people were overly concerned about my militaristic efforts to tackle my thesis. These thoughts seemed ludicrous to me but, then again, so did the text. As I scrambled to make sure someone had not posted an R.I.P. on my Facebook wall or whatnot, a friend informed me of the explosions in Boston. At this point, I checked the news and realized what nearly everybody else already knew—there had been two unexplained explosions at the Boston Marathon.

This immediately contextualized my friend’s fear—I had run in two marathons during college and had always wanted to run in the iconic Boston race. He must have known this fact and figured that I could be at the race. With that realization, a number of other texts started to come in with a similar question. I immediately sent out responses and questions of my own, both to those I was concerned about and to those who I knew would be concerned about me.

My first reaction to the tragic event was a sort of hollow shock. Like many New Englanders, I had grown up with Boston as my political, cultural and (I suppose most directly) sports capital. Having lived less than an hour away from the city in a small town in southern Massachusetts, I often went to Boston, especially for sporting events. Brandeis only strengthened this connection. After going into Boston numerous times, I truly fell in love with the city. The atmosphere, people and the suburban metropolis feel of the city encompassed the perfect blend between the cul-de-sac charm of the town of my youth and the hopeful skyscrapers of my future. Boston is the city where I wish to live and work in the future, the city I identify with the most. Boston is my city. The attacks reverberated on a level that was unfamiliar to me. All attacks on the United States, whether against military personnel or civilians, cause me anger and grief. Yet this was different, this was personal. This time, someone had attacked my home.

As this shock took hold, the news coverage became more ominous. Talking heads discussed reports of other bombs, other bombings, and general chaos in Boston. The fog of war continues to this day and no one yet realizes the full extent of what happened. The feeling, however, of watching the news for live updates on what was essentially a war zone was terrifying. As a situation tantamount to martial law clamped down on Boston, it seemed that any ominous rumor was pregnant with deadly possibility. There were reports of suspicious packages found at the Harvard MBTA Station and various other locales around Boston. It was amazing how many rumors ran through the media and social networks. Everyone seemed to be waiting for some other disaster to take place. In the meantime, casualty reports and pictures of the carnage at the scene of the attack continually came in, showcasing the sanguinary effects of the disaster.

Many people discussed the parallels of the event to 9/11. I will readily admit that I was far too young when the 9/11 attacks occurred to truly understand them or feel the weight of their impact. Having spent the day in elementary school, I was not even informed of the attacks until long after they happened. Even then, I could not truly understand the gravity of what had just occurred. I think one of the reasons it’s difficult to contextualize momentous events as a child is the simple fact that you have not had enough time on earth to understand what is or is not out of the ordinary.

I remember accepting my dad’s explanation that there had been a terrorist attack without much question and largely moving on to the question of how soon we would have our revenge. It was a naïve view of the situation and it would take years for me to realize exactly how much grief and tumult was caused that day. Yet, even now, the events of 9/11 feel slightly alien to me. The attack location itself still feels relatively foreign to me, and until yesterday, I always had the strong feeling that this sort of event could never take place where I was. Terrorism was something that happened to other places—not to quiet, unassuming New England. This may have been a defense mechanism I employed in my youth to avoid an overarching fear. Either way, as the years receded into the endless ocean of history, 9/11 became more of a closed off event. Despite attacks such as the attempted Times Square Bombing and the plane plots (both the Underwear Bomber and the-would-be water bottle bombers), the idea of a terrorist attack became more outlandish to me.

Thus, an attack within 10 miles of my location jarred me in a way that no prior attack had. Yet, there was another reason the attacks felt close to home besides mere proximity. I had always hoped to attend the Boston Marathon and almost undoubtedly would have gone this year if not for the titanic amount of thesis work that was due on Monday. This connection as a runner spurred me to further empathize with the victims and I felt the attack almost as a personal attempt upon my life. My grief at the attack, however, quickly changed into anger and then resolve. As the panic of the fog of war slowly ebbed away, I realized that Boston was still standing, and standing stronger than ever. The city, along with surrounding areas, closed ranks and stood firm in the face of a more threatening future.

The general sentiment in the media, on social networks, and among my family and friends was one of grief and firmness in the face of fear. We would not let this attack paralyze us with fear—we would mourn the dead, pursue justice and proceed to live our lives. This would be the ultimate revenge. Later Monday night, I took a brief run to clear my head. As I was heading back to campus, I noticed a train going by. I realized that the city must have continued commuter rail services despite all of the attacks. It then hit me that this was what was going to happen—life in Boston would roll on. I don’t think that things will ever quite be the same in Boston now, but I do know that this event will not come to define us. We will move on as a city and when this trajesty has long been relegated to the history books, Boston will remain.