The past week in Boston felt like (I ask you with my whole heart to please forgive me for this:) a marathon. Many hearts broke in many different ways, and many wounded people reached into themselves in order to find words to communicate their experience. Stuck inside for so much of the week, I found myself devouring blog posts of my fellow Bostonians, but I myself was at a loss for words. There was, of course, the neat little script, the “I’m okay, everyone I know was okay, I wasn’t there, we’re all fine, we’re really shaken but we’re resilient and we’re getting through it.” Those were intended to reassure those who care about me and put their minds at ease. It was comforting to offer them assurance and hope, particularly when I felt so at sea.
The memorial at Boylston and Berkeley is right around the corner from where I work. I commute via the T, as do the majority of my coworkers. Most of the team get off at Copley, but I believe it’s faster to get off at Arlington, and besides, when you do there’s a Starbucks right on the way. That’s my routine, and that was my plan today, but I couldn’t have gotten off at Copley if I wanted to. The T still zooms right past it. The lights are all down. It’s still a crime scene.
That was a taste of the strange mindset buzzing around Boston. Stuck at home all day on Friday, it was natural to feel an enormous surge of relief when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured. Many facebook statuses extrapolated on some version of a natural sentiment: Thank God it’s OVER. Celebration ensued. This sensation for me was very odd. I’ve never had such feeling of complicated relief. It was over… but also, it wasn’t, and it isn’t. The continued closing of Copley Square, a part of town that feels to me (like it does for so many others) like my Boston, is a physical reminder of this.
Getting off the T at Arlington, I knew I would be looking straight at what was the Marathon’s finish line, and I hadn’t been back to that part of town since the bombings. It was truly surreal to see with my own eyes the exact location of all those news broadcasts, which I knew was close to home for me but the distance I felt sitting on my couch at home evaporated in that moment. One particular blogger said that to watch the Boston Marathon is to feel the pulse of Boston. I have felt tuned in to that strange pulse all week, and I certainly felt it yesterday.
There was a swarm of people at the intersection, looking out at a blessing of sorts that was taking place that Sunday morning. As I made my way through the crowd, I heard a mother say to her little boy, “Tell Miss Laura who you gave your flower to.” To which he replied, “I gave my flower to that ambulance man.”
What is so very amazing about the pulse of this city is how it is full of love. My Boston overflows with compassion, the outpouring of which is manifest in the memorial at Boylston and Berkeley. Every imaginable token of condolence, unity and comfort is present, from stuffed animals to signed Red Sox baseballs to letters from an elementary school classroom. At the center are three crosses, each dedicated to one of the deceased victims of the bombings. It is evident that these gifts are not empty but packed with symbolism and intention. I believe the intent of this memorial is to comfort, to bear witness to, and ultimately, to facilitate healing.
If you can physically get yourself to Boylston and Berkeley, I absolutely recommend going to see the memorial, not only because it is beautiful, but because it feels to me a very important part of this journey.
I was very moved. For me, it was cathartic to witness it. There is something sacred about the space, something which to me feels theatrical. There is a space, an otherwise “normal” space, that has become sacred for the purpose of telling this story. This space, once empty, has been filled with experience. There are a myriad of points of view which simply exist in this specific space to tell their story honestly and simply. This event asks you to be present to where you meet this moment in history. It is also communal. It asks us to bear witness to our humanity in the physical presence of other humans. It’s good theatre. And I say that not to belittle or cheapen the memorial, but in fact to illuminate its incredible power to host a moment of revealing beauty and truth: in a word, what some might call art.
For further reading, here are some of the blog posts that I found lovely and comforting:
“Marathon Day” by S.I. Rosenbaum
“The Boston Marathon Is Everything That’s Right With The World” by Katie Lannan.
Buzfeed, of course, exploded with Boston-supportive posts like this one.
This post, by Carrie Jones, details her direct experience with a wealth of human goodness amidst the chaos of last Monday.
There was also this video, which helped me get out of bed on Tuesday.
I’m sure you’ve all seen Stephen Colbert’s thoughts on the whole event.
And then there’s this one, which really has nothing to do with anything.