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Sophia Wise Headshot

A Reflection on the Boston Bombings From Paris

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We were watching Top Chef France on television last night when T's father called. Terrorist attack in Boston. Any child who was pulled out of school on 9/11 immediately imagines a building full of people collapsing story by story. I am ashamed to admit that my first sentiment upon switching the channel to the news was one of relief to know that it was only a bomb in the open. Of course that feeling melded back into the appropriate horror as I learned that two bombs had exploded in a crowd and watched the video of the event playing on loop.

This is the second bloody crisis I have experienced from abroad this year. The first was the school shooting in Connecticut about which I learned from Facebook (one of my friends new recruited by "Teach for America" in Arkansas had posted something like, "As a teacher my job should never be to protect my students from physical danger... " a very well-written paragraph but for me at the time very confusing until I scrolled down and saw the headlines). And then there were the bombings. Experiencing a terrorist attack secondhand from a foreign perspective is a different experience. I cried when I first saw the video clip. I don't know if I cried for my country or for the raw human suffering so graphically displayed. Maybe I cried because I was safe and barely peripherally connected to anybody who might have been hurt and I felt guilty. T cried too -- or rather, the corner of one of his eyes was wet, I didn't really ask. The difference between our reactions was that he was ready to turn the news off and continue with life a few hours later but I wasn't. Later he said that it was a shame that our evening was cut short (we had plans to go out but stayed to watch the news). I asked him if he didn't think that comment was a bit insensitive. Why he asked. "Because three people died today," I answered. "Hundreds of people die every day," he said.

That's true, isn't it? Why don't I feel equally paralyzed with each report of a suicide bomber in Israel? Why does merely a moment of reflection seem a sufficient grieving period for the report of yet another girl in India who has been murdered by her family for the sake of their honor? I don't know, I'm asking.

When I returned to 18 rue P&A after watching the news I went to the kitchen to fold my laundry, where I found Anne listening to the radio. "Did you hear about -- " I began in French, but she cut me off. "I'm listening to this," she said smiling. "It's a poem about people making love in a kitchen. Sometimes many people at once, very erotic. Isn't it wonderful?" I took my chances and interrupted: "But did you hear about the bombing?"

"Oh yes, it's horrible. I have a close friend in Boston."

"Is he alright?"

"I don't know... " She paused to think. "I'm not sure if he is still living there." She sipped her tea and kept listening. I balanced the last of my underwear on top of the laundry pile and headed to my room.