Yesterday I sat down at my computer to the news of two bombs detonating near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I read and reread this sentence, its simplicity, its unyielding finality, and feel every part of me revolt against it. My hands are shaking, I want to type something else, but it will never be anything other than what happened. The impulse to rewrite yesterday’s tragedy, to undo it somehow, to feel your powerlessness from the inside out, is not unique to me or to this situation, and with it the unwelcome memories rush in.
I am outside of a church in Boston, a week before the beginning of my Freshman year, on the phone with a friend from home, I am hearing “he fell eighty feet, Bakara, there is no way he made it.”
I am waking up in a hostel in Laos, phoneless and homesick, to the news of my best friend’s overdose.
And all you want to do is return. To get as close to the wreckage as possible, to be around the people who are feeling this loss as acutely as you are. For Boston, there is no funeral to go attend, no one I loved was hurt, but that want is there. To return to our hill on the Common, to Newbury, to Allston and LB and the Marriott and the legendary corner of Tremont and Boylston, to the Pru, to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and to be around the people who love this city and know the significance of Patriot’s day there, the good will and giddiness, the whole city celebrates, you don’t want to explain it, you want to be around people who, too, have it encoded in their DNA— understanding, at times like this, is the only salve.
Today in New York, there was no overarching sentiment of sorrow or patriotism, no unspoken acknowledgement of loss, and as I rode the subway and the lights went off for a moment I felt the fear I know every person in Boston is feeling right now. It doesn’t feel appropriate to feel this as intensely as I am feeling it, especially in New York. I am embarrassed by it in a strange way, fighting the impulse to take a national tragedy personally. And then I remember everyone I love and have loved in that city, the four years I spent there, the way that, without a campus, the whole city becomes yours. I remember writing in the garden, praying with Hannah on the dock, falling in love on Charles street, sobbing in Fenway as I pressed save on the first draft of my manuscript and I realize that it is. To every person who has ever made that city home, it is nothing but personal.
And I am feeling all the base instincts I lean towards in the wake of something terrible happening. I am too hungry and need too many cigarettes and I can meet this tragedy only with anger and bloodlust, I am exhausted but can’t sleep.
To the dead, the injured, their families and friends, to the seven Emerson students who were hospitalized yesterday, my teachers and mentors and best friend, to Boston and former Boston residents, to everyone who has a piece of their heart in that amazing little city, everyone who is suffering from a once again shattered sense of trust in the world, my heart breaks for all of you. In the wake of this ugliness comes the merciful light, the resilience of the human spirit, the selflessness people are capable of, I am seeing the city united. There is love in the streets today. Walk towards it.
Boston, you will heal, you are madly loved, you raised and educated the best and brightest in this country, and we are feeling for you today all over the world.