Early Monday afternoon during my lunch break, I stood at mile 26 of the Boston marathon, cheering on runners. As someone who recently started running more seriously, I was more excited about the marathon than I’ve ever been. Even more exciting was knowing several people who were running–though they’re so fast I’m sure I missed most of them come by me. Nevermind, I was so happy to be cheering for everyone. I imagined how excited the runners must all feel and how it felt, this culmination of so much hard work–whether qualifying with an impossibly fast time or as a runner for charity. Some were breezing by at mile 26 with huge smiles, others were in goofy costumes, others were struggling but persevering. There were a few in military fatigues who were apparently running with heavy backpacks (because a marathon is not tough enough as it is?) The day was beautiful, everyone was so happy, I was feeling so proud of my adopted city.
I was well out of the way of harm when I heard one and then another explosion. I was many stories up in one of the area’s tall towers, and I wanted to believe some transformer had blown, maybe something like what happened last year. It was almost impossible to believe anything else had happened, and I resisted even though the location of the blast and the noise of sirens made it more agonizingly clear that it was no accident. As I went down 30+ flights of stairs with some co-workers, we started to hope we had overreacted, but when we got to the first floor and sirens were on and lights were flashing. To go outside or stay inside? We weren’t sure what to do so we stayed put, reasoning at least we were at ground level but deciding since whatever had happened happened outside, inside might be better.
Of course soon enough the terrible news start to sink in. By the end of the day every part of me felt so heavy, even though I’d physically done not much of anything at all. Strange how the mental stress of a day can leave you feeling so physically depleted, and how I felt alert yet catatonic at the same time while watching the news that evening. Such a weariness at the seemingly continuous assault of tragedies.
Like so many others I remember 9/11 well, even though I was living in the Boston area at the time. July 2005, I was living in London, and in fact commuting at the very time of the transit system bombings there. Rather than my skin being thicker, somehow this feels just as raw as ever to me, perhaps even more so–the utter perversion of an event that is a celebration of some of the best of humanity. I was lucky enough to not be personally affected or know anyone who was. But my heart aches for all the victims all the same. And I salute everyone who pulled together in the aftermath, and thank them–the helpers.