When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time traveling between New York, where we would visit family and friends, and our Back Bay apartment. Like any other child confined for an elongated (and often boring) car ride, I would become impatient and anxious to get home. My mother, either to ease my anxiety or stop my complaining (or possibly both), would tell me to look out my window for the always illuminated, neon Citgo sign: an iconic Boston site that looms large in the foreground of Boston's beautiful skyline. "When you see the Citgo sign," she would say, "you'll know you're in Boston. When you see the Citgo sign, you'll know you are home."
Today, looking at pictures of the Citgo sign looming over an eerily vacant and abandoned Boston is surreal to say the least. While the buildings and street signs all look familiar, for a moment I could not acknowledge that this is the same Boston I know and love. From the pictures, the city streets seem to be missing much more than throngs of people; they seem to be missing the spirit of Boston. Overcome with a series of emotions ranging from anger and confusion to anguish and sadness, I am left asking myself the same question as every other Bostonian: how could this be happening to our home?
Throughout the week, I have been paralyzed in a state of shock, sorrow, and disbelief. Even now, I cannot find the words to express what we in Boston are going through because I cannot fully wrap my mind around it. Marathon Monday has always been a sacred and beautiful tradition, something that has been a staple in the life of every person who is lucky enough to call Boston home. It is a day that celebrates so much more than athleticism, but endurance, perseverance, strength, and love for each other. In short, it is a day that celebrates the Boston spirit. Though this year evil ruined the day, it could not tarnish our community.
Tuesday morning, no one knew how to act. As I sat in the student lounge at school just a few blocks away from Copley Square (the site of the explosions), I looked to my classmates for some sort of clue. But of course, they had no more wisdom than I. Unsure if we could move on after such an atrocity, and if we could how we were supposed to do so, we sat there in silence, each of us trying to make sense of our own emotions. All we knew for certain was that we loved each other, and that we were determined not to let the evil that infiltrated our community on Monday to shatter our faith or our Boston spirit.
Strengthened by the outpouring of love throughout the nation and by the support of those around me, I slowly came to terms with the tragedy (or at least attempted to), and I decided to pay my respects by visiting the makeshift Copley Square memorial. Though I was overcome with emotion when I saw the disaster on the news Monday afternoon, I was completely unprepared for the whirlwind of emotions I experienced as I confronted the scene. A mass of strangers stood mourning together, leaning on one another for moral support. As I added my bouquet of flowers to the enormous mass, a woman behind me patted my back in consolation while another reached for my hand and squeezed it. Surprised, I looked around and noticed everyone was holding hands and crying. Though I initially tried to hide my sadness by quickly whisking away any tears that escaped my eyes, I could no longer resist it. So, I cried with everyone else. Or rather, we strangers tied together by the love for our community cried together until we felt strong enough to leave.
Now, as I sit at home with my family glued to the news while the city is on lockdown, I cannot help but be stirred by the same terror and sadness I felt on Monday. But today as I remind myself of the strength and love I felt at the memorial, I am able to reassure myself that we will overcome this together. While the pictures I saw this morning might imply that the Boston streets have lost their spirit, I know that the Boston people have not. A teacher of mine once noted that mobs of people are unable to make smart decisions. Up until this week, I agreed. Now, however, I know that the mob of people who comprise the Boston community have made an incredibly brave decision: a decision to keep going. A decision to persevere and deny these evil-doers the ability to shatter our home. A decision to stay strong. And so, as helpless and terrified as I may feel, I know that we will heal together. We shall overcome.
Photo credit: Rachel Demma