Monday, April 15, 2013
It's Patriots' Day which is huge in Massachusetts, especially in the Boston and Concord/Lexington areas. You know, because of the American Revolution. Always a tradition for the greater Boston area. Nearly half a million marathon spectators, always a Sox game at Fenway and either the Bruins or the Celtics at The Gahden. So there's a huge influx of people into Boston. Fortunately that's coupled with many workers having the day off, so the numbers of people in town probably don't fluctuate that much, but there's a greater concentration in the Fenway and Copley Square areas.
These people who WERE in town for special events were gathered in predictable areas. One of the toughest places to get to is the Finish Line for the Boston Marathon. And I don't mean for runners, but for spectators. Today, though, that was not the lucky ticket.
Terror struck Boston today as there was an explosion near the finish line, with a smaller, second explosion within seconds, about a block away, also along the course.
It's too soon to know how many people were victims. Reports at this time are three deaths and more than a hundred injured.
I watched the events of 9/11 on tv. In fact I was on the phone with my nephew when the second plane hit and I remember saying "This is not an accident." I watched the developments on CNN and MSNBC, flipping between channels, but I was a little detached. I was a spectator. I didn't have family working in or near The World Trade Center. Everybody knows somebody who was affected, but I wasn't personally. I was a student at UMass at the time and some of my classmates were from the New York metropolitan area, so I saw what they were dealing with. It was tough. As it is whenever you watch a tragedy unfold live on tv. Or even watching replays on the news. But today it really hit home.
Today my hometown was hit. It's not just the place where I was born. It's the city I returned to again and again as I moved from one part of the country to another. It's a beautiful city. A city full of sports nuts and crazy drivers. And my family members. But it's also not just a city full of proud Americans; it's where America was born (despite what Philadelphians might claim. ) A big part of that birth was an event known as "The Battle of Lexington and Concord." The start of the Revolution. A huge day in American history. For some reason it's only truly celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine. But celebrated it is, especially in Boston.
On the green in Lexington, they reenact the battle. With realistic-looking but pretend weapons. British soldiers in uniform, Massachusetts farmers in rags, charging each other, the mini-explosions of simulated musket fire and smoke fill the air. People falling to the ground in mock injury and death. I haven't experienced it first hand, I've only seen it on the small screen. But I hear it's an incredibly realistic experience. A lot of spectators attend.
But there was also a huge number of spectators at the marathon finish line in Boston. It's the end of the historic run from the small New England town of Hopkinton to one of Boston's busy office, shopping, and tourist areas on Boylston Street near Copley Square, not far from The Boston Common. It's where the runners celebrate the end of a grueling run, fighting through hordes of other runners and conquering the infamous Heartbreak Hill. It's where they collapse in first aid tents, sucking in oxygen, downing sports drinks and water while wrapped in foil blankets.
A lot of those runners never reached the finish line. They were stopped in their tracks, literally, as two bombs exploded nearby. The first aid workers, waiting to assist the runners, instead BECAME the runners, rushing to the site of the explosion. So while the Revolutionary reenactment actors were busy pretending to shoot it out, the marathon spectators experienced the real drama. They were victims of and witnesses to what appears to be a horrific act. First one bomb exploded. Runners fell or were blown off course from the concussion. There was a huge flash and a loud noise, glass and shrapnel flying all around. Seconds later and about a block down the street, there was a smaller explosion, assumed to be related to the first. The police have turned up other packages that may or may not have been bombs but were, in any case, destroyed by the bomb squad.
The injuries being reported are those one would associate with a bombing. I won't go in to the gory details. Many lives were changed in an instant. A few lives ended. And many more will be touched by the experiences of loved ones and friends.
But for the first few minutes after tragedy struck, as news stations were scrambling to get reports and images on the air, for minutes that seemed like hours, millions of us grabbed our cell phones and took to social media to check on family and friends. Fortunately, for most of us, family and friends responded. All were, ARE, safe. Physically, at least. As grateful as I am for that news, I know it's going to be hard for many folks to return to work tomorrow.
Going into Boston, there will probably be a lot of security, traffic will probably be heavy. That seems like a small price to pay for safety, but it also means time sitting in your car waiting, with plenty of time to think about WHY you're waiting. To help prevent another attack. To keep you safe from people who don't know you but want to harm you anyway. I can't imagine what the next few days will feel like to people entering Beantown from all directions, walking from parking garages to office buildings, pouring out of the train and subway stations, stepping off buses and hoping they'll make it safely to their destinations. My hometown will never be the same. But the people are tough, hardened New Englanders. They were strong enough to defeat the British, they'll overcome this. Things will soon return to normal. But they'll never forget this Patriots' Day. Another April day that will help define America's history. I couldn't be prouder to be from Boston.
And. I am so grateful my family is safe.