August 30 will mark my 7 year anniversary of moving to Boston. I chose to go to college here and then to graduate school and now Mr. B and I are looking to buy a house (a house!) just 4.5 miles outside of Boston Proper. I love this city. I love the snow in the winter. I love the festivals in the summer and the gentle buzzing turned into a roar as the college students return in the fall. I love to hate the sticky heat and the one way streets and the red line that has closed down for repairs on more weekends than I can count. I love the bustle of Back Bay and the way the sleek blue Prudential building juts into the sky right next to a 300 year old stone church. The people dont say hello as you pass them on the street, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t kind. They are often raucous and ridiculous in a way that I have rarely been, but they make me feel like a part of something. I chose Boston as my home and my community and I plan to stay here for a long time.
Monday afternoon, I was writing up a report in the SLP office at Mass General Hospital when I got a text from a colleague reading, “Bombs at Boston marathon finish line.” I wasn’t sure what to think, but a quick internet search confirmed it.
I tend to respond to all sudden and highly emotional events in a very level way. It’s something I’ve perfected, actually. When everyone jumps because the fire alarm is suddenly blaring, I look around calmly and rarely flinch. When I got some extremely happy news recently, people kept asking me if I was excited and they were confused by my lackluster response. And if you were in that tiny office when I heard about the Boston Marathon Bombing, you might have seen a brief glimpse of surprise cross my face, and then I was calm and collected and quickly Google-ing.
I take things in, I seek out information, and I sit with it. It’s only later, after I’ve had a chance to process the event, that the emotions set in. Other Speech-Pathologists and students were there and we talked and sought out the latest news. I stayed calm as we tried to contact friends and colleagues at the race. I waited to hear if we would need to stay late at the hospital to help with the injured who were being brought in for care. The ambulances whined outside the office. I was thoughtful as I left the hospital that night, walking with friends so I wouldn’t need to take public transportation. And at home I watched the news intently and it started to hit me.
See that little red dot on the left side of the map? That dot is where Brian and I lived from 2009-2010. All of the pictures in this post were take right near that spot. All of the pictures were taken within a block of where two bombs went off on Monday afternoon. I kept imagining the scenarios. What if we still lived there? What if I hadn’t kept knocking cups off the shelves in that shoebox of an apartment? We would have been there. We would have been watching the marathon. We would have been trapped or evacuated or worse and we would have been really really scared.
And that’s the moment that I realized that I already was scared. I was scared and hurt and sick. This disaster was happening to me, not to tragic strangers in Newtown or Aurora, but in my town on a street that I have walked a thousand times. The wounded were coming to my hospital and their grieving families were waiting my hallways. Those other events were terrible and they made me pensive and sad and briefly paranoid. This event made my stomach twist. This one made me sob in the dark in the living room in the middle of the night.
I felt sick that first night. I couldn’t turn off the television. I needed to get homework done, as I always do, but I couldn’t focus. I still can’t actually. Mr. B told me to turn off the tv and go to bed. “There’s no more news right now,” he said, and he was right. But that didn’t mean I could turn off my mind.
I woke up before my alarm the next day and I still felt sick and sad and a little scared. I usually only wear headphones when I run, but I put them on that day. I was blocking out the world. That day, I didn’t want to look strangers in the eye. Work was still work and I was going through the motions. I had lunch outside with my colleagues, just to talk and feel the sun and be together and alive. I kept pressing through the day and by the end I felt a little better. I was distracted by work and life was moving forward.
I woke up feeling okay today, but the sick moments come and go. I’ll read an article or hear an update and I am overcome again by the horror of this event. I didn’t lose anyone and I wasn’t injured in the blast, but I was hurt by it all the same. I want to make excuses about how I don’t deserve to feel this way, but this tragedy is mine and I am experiencing it. All I can do is keep moving forward and the sick moments will be less and less.
I already knew that people were capable of terrible things and I don’t need to place blame. I just need to keep living my life in the city I love.