On Friday night, as Suspect #2 was apprehended, a light rain descended on Watertown. It was like the world was collectively tearing up after the tense, stressful lockdown of the last 24 hours. Driving through the dark streets of Watertown, the windshield wipers of my car gently pushed away the drops from the sky as I tried to hold back tears of my own.
We could hear horns blazing. Cop cars drove by to cheers. Bells pealed from local churches. And yet, on a quiet side street in Watertown, just silence and a gentle mist. It was over.
This past week has been a tumultuous roller coaster of non-stop news, social media, stress, anxiety, sadness, and fear. And it's been made worse by the intense familiarity of it for all of the residents, me included. Almost every snapshot on the news this past week has been a spot in Boston or Cambridge or Watertown that my friends and I know, love, and frequent -- be it a restaurant in Watertown, a street where I run, or the MIT campus where my husband is a graduate student. We all have stories from these scenes that are being splashed across the screens of the wider world. And that makes this experience even more personal and intense.
Boston in some ways has been brought closer together by all of it, bonded by a unique shared experience of tragedy, heartache, and fear in such close proximity. But we have also been bonded by a shared humanity filled with love, support, outreach, and caring.
And that shared humanity is stronger than the fear that was perpetrated last Monday at the marathon, and even Friday during the manhunt.
As tragic as Monday and Friday were, I can still see the positive--in the random knocks on our apartment door from strangers in our large apartment building to ask if we're ok because they know we're runners, in the waves at police officers, in the unbelievable number of people out wearing marathon or Boston sports gear as they walk down the street, in the huge swaths of runners out this morning showing that our lives are continuing on, in the story of a friend buying a gift card at the Starbucks across from an ambulance outpost so that the paramedics can get free coffee. I also see it in the casual conversations that have sprung up.
On Saturday morning, waiting for a seat at my favorite breakfast spot in Watertown (the Deluxe Town Diner, which is a few blocks from where the suspect was apprehended), I chatted with others around me--runners who had been stopped at the 25 mile marker and who lived in Watertown. All of us affected and impacted, yet positive. The two runners, who had been running the Boston Marathon to raise money for liver research, shared an inspiring story about how an anonymous donor had given $1,500 to their fundraiser post-marathon. The donor said the gift was to thank them for writing a spectator guide to viewing the marathon that they had found on their blog. They had used it on Monday and believed that in following the guide's advice on where to watch, their lives had been saved.
The mood of the rest of the diner was also upbeat. People were going about their normal routine--brunch on a weekend morning. There was a palpable lively feeling as diners chatted with friends and family over chocolate chip pancakes and omelets. Our world is back to normal.
Yet it's a different kind of normal. A more intimate normal. One where you look more people in the eye as you're walking down the street. One where you strike up random conversations with strangers that don't seem random because you are bonded by shared experience.
We've all lived through a lot this past week.
As we begin this new normal, as we move past the tears and relief, I hope we hold on to that love that we have felt for our friends, neighbors and strangers around us. The love that has prompted random outreach and acts of kindness and support. The love that ultimately, will always be stronger than hatred or fear.