I was on my way to Mass General when the explosions happenedSubmitted by Michael Nystrom on Mon, 04/15/2013 - 20:14
Thank you everyone, who sent emails. I'm ok. I wasn't there today, at the finish line of the Marathon. I have been, in past years.
The Boston Marathon takes place every year on Patriots' Day, a holiday to commemorate the start of the American Revolution at battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.
For the seven years that I've been in Boston, Patriots' Day has always been festive: It is a special day:A holiday that we get that the rest of the country doesn't. Spring is just beginning, the weather is unpredictably warm and windy, and buds are just emerging on the trees. The bars are packed with revelers enjoying their day off, watching the Marathon, and getting drunk. All day long you see the lanky runners throughout the city, their numbers still pinned to their jerseys, space-age foil blankets around their shoulders. Some are alone; some with one loved ones; others together in a gaggle of friends. No matter what, you feel proud of them, in awe of them: These are competitors in the Boston Marathon.
This year I had been so busy getting ready to move that it had completely slipped my mind. A couple of weeks ago, in all the packing and moving and hoisting of boxes and furniture, I somehow managed to injure my left arm. Initially I thought it was just a muscle strain that would heal quickly. Then I thought it was some form of tendinitis. Now I'm not sure what it is. But after two weeks of chronic pain and a gimpy arm that is not of much use, I figured it was time to see the doctor.
But since parking downtown can set you back $25 for an hour, I decided to drive to Samantha's workplace, park there and take the free shuttle in to MGH. While I was waiting for the shuttle, I saw the news on my phone: Explosions at Boston Marathon.
My subconscious defenses went up. Of course you don't want to believe the worst. You don't want to believe it is "terrorism." Not in your own city. Not in America.
When we first came to Boston in the summer of 2005, terrorism was at "top of mind," as marketers like to say. It was not lost on me that our entry point to the U.S., Boston's Logan Airport, was the purported departure point of AA Flight 11, which is said to have hit the World Trade Center on 9/11. The London Underground & bus bombing of 7/7/2005was still raw and fresh. For the first few months, every time I rode Boston's rickety, old, overcrowded Green Line (America's first subway) the thought of London was right there, "top of mind." (Is that guy a terrorist? How would I escape if this train got bombed? Where are the exits?) Homeland Security kept us in a state of constant terror with its color coded alert system. The subway system bombarded us with the message: "If you see something, say something."
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In time, that fear dissipated. Life went back to normal - more or less - aside from the occasional attempted random stop & search by Boston Police when entering the subway system. I did not hesitate to turn around and walk to the next stop (thankfully in Boston, the subway stops are mercifully close) when I saw the cops.
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Today when I first read the news on my phone (at Marketwatch.com, of all places. My main concern was the $100 drop in gold, and today's stock market slide) my hope was that it was some kind of fluke: Maybe a transformer blew. Or there was a gas leak in a restaurant. Please, not "terrorism." Please, don't revive those old fears that have long been put to rest. Please, no deaths. Please, no injuries. Not here. Not in my adopted hometown of Boston, this city that I have grown to love and cherish, with its deep history and tradition. Not on this day, the festive day of the Boston Marathon, the anniversary of the Revolution.
But the more I read, the more I realized it was not the case.
Samantha reminded me that the Virginia Tech Massacre happened on Boston Marathon Day, in 2007. She remembered hearing the news when we were at the finish line six years ago, right next to the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street. Still new to Boston, we were there, watching the runners cross the finish line, just across the street from where one of today's bombs went off.
And as a resident of this city, you can't help but imagine: If things were different - maybe if I weren't moving - I might've been down there today at the finish line, cheering the runners on at the end, like I was six years ago.
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After reading the news, I didn't think it wise to go to the hospital. Not only because MGH would be overwhelmed with patients who needed help more than me and my gimpy arm. My gimpy arm could wait.
Sadly, my first thought was that I didn't want to be the victim of a "double tap."
"Double tap?" Samatha said.
Reflexively I explained, "It's what the Americans do, in places like Afghanistan. They bomb a place once with the drones. Then when others rush in to help, they bomb it again."
And as I said it, the words shocked me: "The Americans." It must be how the people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa describe me. Not to mention you: The Americans.
Because the acts perpetrated against us today are only a small taste of what we - The Americans - do to others on a daily basis.
And the thought of it made me cry.
How evil. The thought that another bombing might happen at Mass General - right here in Boston - as an added cruelty. The thought that whoever perpetrated the first bombing would use the technique - one learned from The Americans - on us. The thought that Sam and I - innocent bystanders - could be victims. And the thought that there were already real victims. Three dead. Countless others injured. Were any of them our friends, acquaintances? Samantha's colleague - a beautiful young 23 year old student of neuroscience - we knew was at the Marathon. Could she have been a victim? If so, how senseless it would have been. In fact, three are dead, hundreds more injured. How senseless indeed it is.
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I don't have cable. I'm one of the TV Zero households that terrifies marketers. I haven't been subject to the non-stop, repetitive barrage of coverage that has no doubt been occurring since the bombings today at 3pm EDT. Thank God.
But I did see some of the coverage. Instead of going to the hospital today, we drove back home, and stopped in Davis Square. I imagined everyone eyeing their phone was reading about the tragedy downtown. Walking by the Five Horses Tavern, we saw through the window the news was on. And because we don't have TV, Samantha wanted to go inside and see.
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The Five Horses is a sports bar. It is a lively, happening joint, normally loud and filled with drunk reveling Tufts students and sports fans cheering on the Patriots or the Red Sox. It has a beautiful bar with overpriced burgers and an overpriced Sunday brunch. Perfect for the entitled students of Tufts. The kind of place (for me) that you go to once, and never go back to again.
Today it should have been alive with chatter and merriment, with Marathon finishers enjoying a beer. Instead, it was like a tomb. We walked in, and the place was dead silent except for the news that was on all of the multitude of TVs, showing repeats of the explosion at the finish line. News conferences by the police. Explanations of what happend. Over and over again.
The hostess tried to seat us, but we said we just came in to see the news, and she said that was fine. And we stood at the entrance and watched. Watched what all the people sitting down were watching. The place was still packed, but there was no joy - not as there should have been today, on Patriots' day, on Boston Marathon Day, on the 238th anniversary of the start of our Revolution.
It was stone cold silent, all the patrons staring remorsefully at the screens, faces long, silverware sadly clinking against plates. Others had their heads buried deep in their phones, reading news, or texting with their friends, who hopefully - and thankfully - were uninjured.
After several minutes, another party came in after us. I didn't want to stay. I didn't want to watch. I'll read the rest in tomorrow's Boston Globe. "C'mon, let's go," I said. And we left.
For now, I'm thankful to be alive, and I'm thankful to be free. For now.