For us Bostonians, Patriot's Day is a holiday that's ours and ours alone. It may fall in mid-April, but the last snow has barely melted and leaves remain tightly-clenched buds on the trees. For students, it signals the first day of Spring break; colorful windbreakers and fleece jackets replace grungy down jackets that finally have the opportunity to get washed. Businesses close and families and friends' kick back, drink copious amounts of beer, watch the runners and drink more at the Sox game. Up until Tuesday, it was traditionally a really fun day in the neighborhood.
Monday changed my beloved hometown forever. A sick and twisted individual saw fit to maim and murder the people of my city. My friends and family were spared, but people they know, weren't. My dear friend's son was friends with 8-year-old Martin Richard, who went to cheer on the runners with his family. His sister and brother were very badly hurt, his mother's eye was damaged and he lost his life. And my dear friend had to tell her children an incredibly painful truth.
Another friend was with his family, 30 feet from where one of the bombs went off. He miraculously escaped unscathed, and spent the afternoon covered in blood, pulling people out of the wreckage as three yellow balloons ascended into the ashy sky over Boylston Street.
As a New York transplant who witnessed 9/11, I resent the fact that I now reflexively react with a surreal calm upon the initial news of an unspeakable horror. As a parent, I resent the fact that I hug my family with an embedded hyperawareness of the preciousness of their embrace, as I now know just how life is but a fleeting gift and their love is my only shelter from the fear surrounding it. And now, I resent the fact that my friends back home will likely feel this way too.
My generation was trained to operate under an ominous cloud -- a mushroom cloud. As children, we believed in the Brady Bunch and Santa and the Tooth Fairy but as teens, heightened exposure to the media would reveal an ugly truth: at any given moment, we were told, some angry, power-hungry official in a red suit could push a button and we'd all combust into dust. Helpless, we partied like it was 1999 while we waited for two tribes to go to war. We thought we'd be lucky to see 30. But war was somewhere over there, not here. Not anymore. I resent that, and I resent that individuals with no respect for human life are somehow able to roam free and plot to take life at their whim.
I'd always hoped that by the time I had kids, the perpetual veil of fear would lift or that I'd somehow locate a peaceful utopia we could nestle in. Naively, I also held fast to the idea of raising my children in truth. If I was truthful in my parenting, if I was honest and brave, my children would be honest and brave also. They wouldn't be shocked by human nature and ill-equipped to deal with the variables of life. They would expect and accept the dark with the light and be the stronger for it.
Tragedies like these shroud us in darkness with no accompanying light to fumble for. When your home is in a constant state of heightened alert, it is a huge challenge to be honest and to be brave. Utopia remains an elusive concept. The close calls or degrees from horror narrow to our immediate environs. There is no respite from the sinking feeling that something could go very, very wrong at any given second.
As parents, it is our job to make our children feel safe, so we're forced to contain our anxiety to spare our children's psyches and thus, lie in spite of a very obvious truth: There is nowhere to hide from the middle finger of fate. This is a truth I cannot bear to share with my children, so I have no choice but to hug them real tight and lie about their safety like I do about Santa, because the alternative is to burn away their innocence and smother them in fear.
My friends in Boston won't be able to lie to their kids about what happened. They will explain that a random act of violence that occurred on their streets killed an innocent child. They will know people, or know people who know people, who were hurt or affected by the blasts. They will be forced to wade through emotional grey area so murky, an adult could barely navigate through. And they will learn to lie to their children and tell them they're safe as they walk down Boylston Street at a heightened pace, dodging trash cans and compulsively checking around them for menacing clues.
In the face of such terrible truths the best we can do, as Boston-born and bred parents, is to support our children in the spirit of our tough-as-nails upbringing.
We are staunch realists. We may pepper our speech with a creative chain of curse words, but we roll up our sleeves, put on our baseball caps and point them toward whatever comes our way.
We are hearty as hell. You have to be when you have to get up at 5 a.m. to dig your car out of two feet of snow in 5-degree weather, every single day for five straight months.
Finally, we are emphatically loyal, as our passion for our sports teams can attest. We may not seem like the friendliest of folks, at first. We detest all forms of small talk and universally refer to it as "bullshitting." To us, friendship is a gift that must be earned and honored for when it is given, and it is life long. We are not shallow opportunists, careerists or schmoozers who are in the least impressed by who you are, what you do or how much money you have, because we know you aren't better than us. But when we love you, we love you fiercely and wholly.
My people will find their way through this tragedy as they do all things -- with more guts, soul and swagger than any other breed of human. They will be realistic, they will be strong, they will band together, take care of each other and prevail. My heart breaks that my friends and family now have to confront the aftermath of a new, ugly truth that could coat their lives with fear. My sole comfort is they were bred to be brave, as all true patriots are.