Upon Returning to Boylston Street After Boston’s Worst Week

Saturday, April 20, 2013
Fate had our family far from Boston this past week. It was Nate’s spring break and we were out of the country.  The second blast occurred by the Starbucks I use as my Boston office. We’ve watched the last 6 marathons from that spot, just up the street from our apartment. That’s our connection.  That and friends who ran the race.

Today we returned and like thousands of others, walked over to the makeshift memorial at the finish line on still closed off Boylston Street.  A hushed crowd of families with children waited patiently to drop off flowers, flags, notes, photos, teddy bears and Red Sox caps. We stared down that empty, haunted avenue, where men in protective white suits could still be seen working on the sidewalk. Much of our vacation was spent glued to TV images of this spot. Even from 1500 miles away it was impossible not to feel connected to what was happening. 

I’d didn’t feel the same connection to the many comments about this proving how tough Boston is, or how the bombings showed what Boston was made of.  Certainly there had been no shortage of inspiring and heroic actions. But I’d never thought of Boston any other way.  After all, Boston is home to City Year, and Partners in Health, to Andy Husbands and Dan Pallotta, to Citizen Schools, and Facing History and Ourselves, to Gordon Hamersley and Jody Adams, to Cradles to Crayons and Project Bread, to Robert Lewis Jr. and Joanne Chang, to Jim and Karen Ansara and Ira Jackson.  If there was ever a city that had proven what citizenship means, what compassion looks like, what a social conscience can achieve, it was Boston before the marathon, not just after it.

But I believe people would have reacted the same way in New Orleans, Denver and Seattle, or in New Delhi, Dakar, or Singapore for that matter.  Moments of darkness shouldn’t blind us to the light in the rest of humanity. The impulse to single ourselves out for such qualities is natural.  But the impulse to recognize what we have in common with others, whether across the street or across the oceans, is even larger, and more needed now than ever.  

For too many here in Boston, the suffering doesn’t end with the end of the manhunt. The marathon’s digital clock can’t measure the years healing will take. For some life will revert to normal sooner than anyone thought possible, For others it never will. For the rest of us, here and around the nation, we go on, reminded about qualities of kindness and courage that will endure not because they surfaced in the aftermath of a few horrific moments but because they were there all along.

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