Boylston Street, Boston
I’ve been trying to process what happened in Boston a little over a week ago. After becoming so consumed by reading the news that I did a number on both my head and my stomach a little break was in order. I’m now trying to think about other things and read other news. But I keep coming back to it. It is unavoidable.
Perhaps it’s because my husband works a few blocks from Boylston St. and thought about going to his chiropractor that day – a location that would have had him standing where the first bomb went off. Perhaps it’s because I have an almost eight year old that I thought about bringing to watch the race and can’t help thinking of each time I see the sweet face of that little boy, growing in his big new front teeth. Perhaps it’s because I have been on that street, in that very location, hundreds of times and never once felt unsafe. Or perhaps it’s because I now realize that this kind of event, as much as I don’t want to believe it, can happen anywhere, without any warning, and without any understanding be it at school, on a plane, in a city or on a quiet street. I’m reduced to tears thinking about those that died and the families they left behind along with the hundreds of injured and the first responders that dealt with it all.
Boston, in my mind at least, has always been a safe city. It’s not too big or too spread out making it unmanageable or intimidating like a New York or San Francisco. Even after September 11, 2001 with fighter jets flying over the city every night and police and National Guard out in force, I felt safe. Maybe I was delusional, but it was my city and I had loved it since I was a kid visiting with my parents by taking in a Red Sox game when they were still awful or going to Faneuil Hall for fried dough while my brother snuck off for more exotic Greek food.
As a teenager Boston is where I would seek sanctuary, escaping suburban teenage angst with a P & B bus ticket and an hour later ending up in a tiny parking lot in the Theater District with prostitutes. I would trudge up to the MFA or walk around Downtown Crossing cursing my horrible 13 year old life and the creetens of junior high with my parents blissfully unaware. And it was Boston I ran to in my early 20s hoping to carve out some kind of life for myself without a high school diploma or many prospects.
We’ve only just rediscovered the city after eight years away, bringing the kids in on weekends to check out museums, parks where overpasses used to roar, and trying to give them a sense of what a bigger world can look like outside of the sheltered and carefully constructed charm of a rural New England life here in Carlisle. And now I guess I have to face the fact that I’m the one that’s become a little too sheltered.
The kids were aware of what happened on the 15th. I was quite honest, but age-appropriate in relaying the news. That Saturday, after seriously thinking about not going, we brought them into City Hall Plaza to see the Big Apple Circus. They were so excited for all the reasons a city is exciting. It is big and loud and full of people that don’t all look the same or sound the same. But I was fearful to be there and for the first time.
I was overly aware of emergency vehicles and passing sirens. The bomb sniffing dog in the circus tent made my heart speed up. And when my 4 year old said, “We’re in Boston! Isn’t that where the explosion was?” I wanted to cry as I told her not to worry about it. On our way home we passed the motorcade leading Officer Collier’s body to the funeral home, dozens of police cars and blue lights glowing at sunset.
Boston. What a very different image of the city they already have.