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Theresa Milstein Headshot

We Are Boston

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Friday night, my 10-year-old daughter slept in the bedroom with my husband and me.

She was freaked out.

I didn't know I was until I woke up in the middle of the night, and the previous five days' events whipped around my brain.

When 9/11 occurred, I lived in New York. The magnitude of what had happened shocked our nation and the world. I lived an hour away and knew people whose lives had been irrevocably changed as a result.

A month later, I moved to Cambridge.

Eleven years later, I moved to Arlington.

Last month, I posted an article about how I felt at the time of the move from Cambridge to Arlington.

I learned that, for some, there was a divide between the two places wider than the Charles River.

Monday, two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon.

I've never gone to the marathon. Each year I mean to, but somehow don't. I wasn't directly in any danger. I knew someone who raced, who was fine. Later, I found out a woman who died worked not far from my house.

But I felt it profoundly. Boston is my home. So is Cambridge. And Arlington. I don't identify just with a street or a neighborhood or even a town. The reason my husband and I moved here is because we'd vacationed around Massachusetts when we were still in college and fell in love with the state. The whole Boston-area is home to me.

I wasn't alone feeling Bostonian. Yankee Stadium played "Sweet Caroline." Each time, I think about it, I get chills. Other cities, other people made similar gestures at other stadiums, plastered posters of solidarity on Facebook, set up races to honor Boston's fallen.

The whole week felt surreal. It was spring break, but there was this unease. The persons who committed the atrocious acts were out there... somewhere. Would they be caught? Would they strike again?

Then Friday morning at 6:15, the events familiar to all of us began to unfold. For the next 16 hours, I was glued to the radio and TV and social media. Even though Arlington wasn't on lockdown, the towns around us were. I had faith in the Boston Police and every unit of law enforcement on the case.

But other parts of the day were even harder. The picture of the suspect who'd escaped. He looked so earnest. I've taught children about the age he was in the photo in Cambridge for years. I'd even subbed at Cambridge Rindge and Latin two of the years he was there. I lived just blocks away from the suspects' home. I had just PARKED MY CAR right by his house and walked past it on WEDNESDAY. Were either of the suspects in there at the time? What were they doing?

Had I walked the same streets with him at the same time? Had our paths crossed?

Even though the terrorists didn't affect me directly, I was affected.

He looked no different than the kids I'd taught, the children my kids went to school with, the people I saw in the street. I've met the teachers in his elementary school. I can picture the kindergarten classes there.

I've seen terrorists on the TV before. It was easy to demonize them. While I know this suspect should and will be punished, I know he was here living with us.

How did he live with us, yet still de-humanize us? How could he plan something so big and horrible?

He was a part of Boston, yet he hurt it.

He hurt us.

More than ever, I am not just a part of my street or neighborhood or town. The Boston Marathon is an international event. Our world is as big or as small as we make it.

If we make our world big, then there is no us vs. them. There's just us.

No matter where we are, we are Boston.

Cross-posted from Arlington Patch.