I am a Bostonian. And my heart is breaking. There are no words to adequately express how I feel about yesterday’s tragedy in my home city of Boston. Though I have lived outside of Boston for a decade now, I spent the first 28 years of my life in the Boston area, and several years after college right in the heart of Boston, walking regularly through the area where this tragedy occurred. Boston was the city that raised me into the adult that I am today. No matter where else I go, Boston is always the home in my heart.
When I learned of the horrific news yesterday, I immediately turned on the TV to see what was happening. I am an avid news junkie, so normally I can watch these sort of events very objectively without having to internalize the emotions. But I could not have anticipated the visceral and personal response that I had yesterday. I immediately called my brother, who also instantly welled up with anger and sadness at the news. He too has lived outside of Boston for years, but like me, he too is a true Bostonian through and through. His first response to me, “They picked the wrong city to mess with. You do not mess with Bostonians.” I concurred, comforting myself for a moment with the knowledge that Bostonians are as tough and resilient as they come.
As more of the horror unfolded, I found myself spending the day in tears, shaking. And when I stopped crying, I would just start again. These were cathartic tears, tears of grief that needed to flow. This was my home, these were my people. This beautiful city and her amazing people had shaped the person that I am today, and although I have lived in many other places, I always identify first as a Bostonian. And I do so proudly. Bostonians are such good, kind, real, honest, straight-forward, down-to-earth people. They will give you the shirts of their backs if need be, and many Bostonians did just that yesterday, as they desperately tried to make turnicates to stop the bleeding of their fellow Bostonian brothers and sisters.
And though the news was graphic and devastating to watch, I knew I had to watch it. I had to watch it to honor those who were experiencing such unthinkable horror. But I felt so helpless. I wished I could be in Boston at that moment, helping out my fellow Bostonians. And if I could not be there in person, then I had to watch and be a part of their pain. I had to share in it and stand in solidarity with my people.
As more and more news of the casualties and war-like injuries were reported, my heart shattered further for the poor families of the victims and for the indescribable and inconsolable grief that I knew they were all feeling. And I prayed for the survivors, knowing how tragically their lives had been changed in an instant, knowing the grief and post-traumatic stress which they will carry for years, if not the rest of their lives.
In the midst of all of this it suddenly occurred to me that a dear family friend of ours had planned to go to the Marathon that day, to watch one of his friends running. I immediately ran to my computer to check his Facebook wall and my heart immediately sank when I saw friend after friend posting, asking William if he was ok. No response. Hours passed, more people posted and at this point some of us were frantically calling hospitals and posting his info on the Google People finder. Still no response from William. I feared the worst and the tears resumed.
We are so fortunate that eventually someone was able to get a hold of my friend and we learned that he was safe and sound. A sigh of relief. But I was so sad for all of the other families who would also be frantically searching and who would not be so lucky to receive the good news that I had. I shed more tears for their pain and anguish.
As I listened to the ER doctors talking about the horror that came through their doors and of how many limbs they had to amputate, I tried to imagine the unthinkable reality of having one of your limbs blown off, something we tragically expect in war, but something that nobody could ever expect on the sidelines of the Boston Marathon, one of the most celebrated days in Boston. I began thinking of how much we take our limbs for granted, something that our brave war veterans know all too well. We walk about on a daily basis, never really thinking about what life would be life without a leg, or God forbid, without two legs.
In honor of those who were facing this devastating reality, I forced myself to stop and think about that. I am an avid yogi. Yoga changed my life. Yoga gave me back my life after a very dark depression. I depend on having two arms and two legs to be able to do this practice which has been so critically important for health and well-being in my life. How on earth would I survive if I were to tragically lose a limb, as was now happening to these people? I honestly don’t know how or if I could survive such a devastating blow. Life as you know it changes in an instant, in one horrific blink of an eye.
So as I was walking over to the cafe today to write this, and I heard the tragic news about the little 6-year old girl named Jane, who is an Irish Step Dancer and has tragically lost her leg, my heart sank into my stomach. As I thought about my own legs and my yoga practice, my heart bled for this little girl. Only 6-years old with a whole life ahead of her, and now she has to face a life with this disability, and likely without her beloved Irish Step Dancing.
I searched for her name, wanting to pay her proper tribute here and as I did so, my heart sank even further upon discovering that she was the sister of the little 8-year old boy, Martin Richard, who was the first to lose his life in the incident. As I read further I discovered that their mother too had undergone emergency surgery to save her life and she was still recovering from her injuries. And I felt so sad for this poor little girl, who not only lost her leg, but now had to face life without her big brother. Unthinkable. Unspeakable.
And then my thoughts turned to that poor father. Too much loss, too much incomprehensible tragedy for one family to endure. This poor man, with one son lost, a daughter with a devastating amputation and a wife reportedly with brain injury. What parent would not be thinking to themselves, “It should have been me.” There is nothing worse than losing a child. On top of that, having to cope with the tragic injuries of his wife and daughter. One can only imagine the endless scripts that will be running through his head, “What if we hadn’t gone that day? Why didn’t we stand on the other side of the street?” etc, etc. No human should ever have to bear those wounds and live with such torment.
There is too much tragedy, too much loss, too much debilitating grief, too many broken hearts, too many forever-changed lives in this story. And it is a story that shouldn’t be told. It did not need to happen. This was such a senseless act of violence, aimed at entirely innocent victims, who were happily celebrating a wonderful day. And though we do not yet know who is responsible, it really doesn’t matter. Whether domestic or international terrorists, whoever it is should and will be brought to justice. That will have to happen to provide if only a moment of peace. But there is nothing that can be said or done to take away the pain and anguish that these people are enduring and will continue to endure for a lifetime.
So where do we go from here? How do we make sense of this heinous and cowardly act? How do we view the world? Well, we do bring the guilty parties to justice, yes. But should we retaliate and seek revenge in anger? No. As much as that is the reaction of people in pain, it does not bring peace. It only creates more anger and hatred in a world that already has too much of both. I believe that Gandhi was right when he said,
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
And I also wholeheartedly believe in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said,
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Love is the only answer. It is love and human connection that caused so many first responders and bystanders to run towards the bomb blast yesterday, instead of away from it. It is love that caused several runners to cross the finish line and run straight to Mass General Hospital to give blood. It is love that allowed complete strangers to be tearing off their clothes in order to stop the bleeding of a complete stranger. It is love that allowed volunteer workers and random passers-by to stay by the side of someone they don’t know, holding their hand until they got into the ambulance and on their way to a hospital. It is love that has caused the outpouring of grief and support of a community, a nation, and a world. It is love that causes my own tears to flow, in empathy and solidarity for my fellow Bostonians.
I am so encouraged by all of the beautiful, moving stories of heroism and humanity that are coming out of this tragedy; people coming together with their neighbors, people helping and crying with strangers, people putting their own lives at risk to help save the lives of others. However horrific the event, there is always beauty and grace that comes out of these horrible events. There are always powerful personal missions and new life paths forged out of such personal tragedies. There is always so much more good that prevails and selfless service to mankind that comes out of these stories. There is always light that comes out of the darkness.
And I also take comfort in this: Bostonians do come from very tough stock. They, we, are people who will not be knocked down, who will not live in fear. We are a strong, proud people who will stand boldly and fearlessly in the face of terror and fear. We will not be overcome. We will stand united, in love and brotherhood.
This post is dedicated to all of those who have so tragically had their lives cut short, to those survivors whose lives are forever changed in an instant and to the families and loved ones of all the victims. This post is dedicated to a brave and beautiful city that I am proud to call “home.”