Our generation has lived through so many traumatic events in the past 12 years: 9/11, Newtown, the Aurora shooting, the movie theater shooting. And for the most part, it has affected us -- but not in a way that absolutely paralyzed us. In some ways, the mentality was "It's in another part of the country, therefore I'll grieve for a bit and move on," but when something awful happens in your own hometown, it changes your perception of everything. The Boston Marathon bombing didn't just happen to the people who were participating, it happened to everyone who calls Boston home...
One year, 365 days, the first anniversary of the marathon bombing has arrived much too quickly and with it a sense of anger and bitterness, but in some ways a sense of pride because we didn't fall apart. We stood strong together. I think it changed the views of what people outside of Massachusetts thought about us.
Everyone has different memories of where they were when the first explosion went off, most people were home, some doing everyday errands like I was; I was sitting in a car running errands when my mobile Facebook started flashing with notifications and people demanding to know where I was and if I was at the marathon. I didn't know what was going on until someone sent me a link to the local news station and I saw everyone running from the second explosion. My first thought was that my uncle was supposed to be there, and I kept trying to text my aunt. But because everyone was trying to log on through social media and various other methods, the lines were jammed. Luckily, he hadn't gone at the last minute, but I later found out a few friends were only steps away from danger.
The days following the bombing and the search for those who did it were even scarier. We were told to stay in the house, to be cautious and on the lookout. Every channel was turned to the search and we were literally frozen in time. What were the odds of running into these guys, and if so, then what do you do? Trap them like wild animals, or run in terror? In the end, it didn't matter because they were cornered towns away.
Just before the live-action capture and before the police were convinced that the brothers accused of the bombings were still in Cambridge, my friend was living just steps away from where one of the suspects had an apartment. He was told that it was possible they could be headed back to their apartment, and the police had the entire block surrounded. My friend needed to be prepared to be evacuated at a moment's notice. When my friend tried to explain that he was disabled and needed special assistance, he was told it was nearly impossible because the SWAT team was covering every inch of Cambridge and no one could get in or out.
Even after the capture, it was still so tense and scary because we were suddenly on alert and even more wary of other people around us. It definitely heightened our awareness of things, especially behavior in large crowds, which was so hard following the bombing. A month later, at the benefit concert, everyone forgot their paranoia and let out the deep breath they'd been holding in. I saw people sing, cry and laugh with people they normally wouldn't give the time of day. I remember Lenny Clarke taking the stage and saying, "We got the guys who did this in three days and if Obama had been smart instead of wasting money on federal resources, we'd have found both Whitey and Bin Laden in less time than it actually took."
You never forget the moments before and after, the runners going across the finish line and those who ran into the fireball to help the victims. The aftermath of hearing the stories, about people who lost limbs, their courageous stories about struggling to survive and cope -- so many who one minute were simply enjoying being a part of a nearly 100-year tradition.
Before the attack on our city, the assumptions about being from Massachusetts were awful, that we speak like Kennedys, we're rude and that our only claim to fame is an 80-year baseball curse. But afterwards, suddenly we're being recognized for our history, the contributions we've made aside from clam chowder and Matt Damon. It's just a shame that it cost lives -- including a police officer whom I had the privilege of sharing a class with at Salem State University.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who put their fears aside and ran into the chaos to help the victims: the first responders, the police, everyone who were willing to sacrifice themselves in the name of restoring sanity and peace to Boston, to make our streets safe again. There aren't enough compliments in the world. Especially on the heels of the recent fire on Beacon Street that claimed two firefighters which was also heartbreaking.
Someone said to me recently -- and I admit I went out of my mind when I heard this -- that the marathon bombing was just another event in a long list of tragedies. If New York could recover from the 9/11 attacks, we should be able to -- but considering it's been 13 years and many New Yorkers are still traumatized, I can pretty much expect us to still be traumatized years from now.
A few years ago on an episode of Rescue Me, Chief O'Reilly, after battling a blaze and going into a bar to dispose of a dog that had been killed in the fire, was standing in a bar watching the Giants lose. When the bartender asked him if he gambled, the Chief said plain as a day, "I'm a firefighter, my whole life's a goddamn gamble." I remembered this quote every time I heard the engines in the distance and saw the crews run toward the medic tents.
We remember everyone who lost a piece of themselves near the finish line. We stand strong together and remember that we are better united than divided, and that we will always be Boston Strong. Whatever the future brings nothing can ever shake us.
Where were you on Marathon Day? Were you scared to walk the streets of Boston afterwards? Are you still angry?