On the Sunday night before Patriots Day I laced up my sneakers and jogged down Norfolk St in Cambridge. I took a left, then cut over to Hampshire and down through Kendall Square. I crossed Land Boulevard, ducked under the bridge and did a quick loop around that weird pond in front of the mall.
Back out by the Cambridge Yacht Club, I picked up the pace and started cruising along the Charles River path. It was dusk and groups of runners were all out doing their pre-marathon tune ups. I smiled with them and with my city and with the gorgeous night and with the perfect day to come.
The skyline was sparkling and, even though I’ve taken this Exact. Same. Picture. at least a few dozen times, I pulled out my phone and snapped it again. “Lookin’ good, Boston,” I thought. “Happy Marathon Eve.”
Writing is cathartic for me. And I’ve taken the past week harder than I might have expected. So I’m writing.
The where-were-you brief: At my friend’s house, on Hereford and Newbury. I was leaning way out of the first floor window to cheer on runners when I felt the bombs go off. Then we smelled smoke, heard the sirens, saw a marathon of people running back down Hereford collide with runners still en route to the finish. I started refreshing Twitter like crazy. Someone turned on the TV. We began ushering stray runners into the house. A cop told us to shut the windows.
Some of my medically trained friends ran to the scene. Others comforted the displaced runners with blankets, beverages and food. We checked in with our people. It was awful and confusing, but I was so, so, proud of how my friends inside and the whole city outside seemed to be responding. Truly – it felt like we all just knew that this is how you come together, this is what you do.
None of my inner circle were hurt or killed. I am forever thankful for that. But like everyone else in this truly tiny city, I’m only a connection or two away from those who lost everything. It’s impossible not to feel like this was a personal attack. Like a flap of the butterfly wings and the scene would have shuffled. It could be any one of us devastated.
Last week as the police looked for the killers, with this closeness of our small city heavy on my mind, I found myself repeating Martin Richard’s words over and over: No more hurting people. Peace. It was a loop that didn’t stop. The words just kept playing in my head.
This is my city. Running is my happy place. There is nothing, nothing more pure and innocent and near to my heart than the people who come out and cheer on Patriots Day. I’ve run two marathons and I know for a fact: normal people cannot run 26.2 miles with out the people who watch marathons. Running a marathon is a selfish endeavor and the spectators give selflessly of their time and energy and love simply to help others overcome their own self-doubt. It is beautiful. (A writer that I really like put this in a way that hit home, I’m borrowing from her to help put the idea down in words.)
Who are these evil bastards. You did NOT do this to these amazing people in this amazing city. No.
No more hurting people. Peace.
Meanwhile, I was feeling horribly, horribly guilty. Worse things than this happen all the time. Sandy Hook. Was worse. From a sheer loss of life and catastrophe of the human condition. I think Sandy Hook was worse. And that’s just the most recent. Of course I felt horrible then. But I didn’t dwell on it. I didn’t hunt for news or change my facebook banner and start using supportive hashtags. I didn’t give money. Now I was feeling so guilty and selfish for feeling so miserable and angry. Meta-guilt on the selfish anger on the deep sadness.
On Thursday night I was in DC, at a conference. Still checking Twitter every, oh, 30 to 45 seconds, when I saw that a cop had been shot at MIT.
“Oh, eff.” I tweeted. Not realizing yet that it was connected. What followed and watching the ensuing chase through twitter and the police scanner was a crazy experience in real-time news. Worthy of a blog post in and of itself. But when I finally went to sleep at 3:30 on Friday morning it seemed possible that they might, maybe, figure out who did this. Maybe we’d get some answers.
My alarm went off at 5:30 so I could send a draft of something to a colleague. I kept checking Twitter incessantly and at some point it became clear that the killers now had names. And an address. And – ohwhatinthebloodyhell – they’re my neighbors.
For the rest of Friday in DC I watched my street on the news, monitored the lock down, sent texts to neighbors and checked our building Facebook page. My favorite day, my city, my sport and now my NEIGHBORHOOD? This seemed ridiculous. Again with the sadness and the anger and then the guilt for being selfish, because of course this isn’t about me and I’m fine and my people are fine, so stop freaking out about the fact that you’ve been living 400 feet from two murderers. But it was like a vortex for a few days – I just wanted to know more and more about the two killers, try to understand, catch a glimpse of something, anything, that could have tipped me off or shown me a sign. I kept reading even past the point where there was anything new to read. It was all encompassing. I came down with a cold – made myself actually sick over it.
Finally, today, I let go of the guilt part.
During the moment of silence on Monday I went down to MIT and stood in the human chain for Officer Collier. I held hands with two strangers and then walked over the bridge and cried at the memorial near Boylston. I went for a long run tonight and listened to an amazing live radio discussion on WBUR. I decided that it’s pointless to feel guilty about my feelings. There are more positive things to do with these feelings.
I’m going to thank our police officers and first responders without restraint. I’m going mourn deeply for the lives lost. I’m going to try to understand other people, where before I might have just written them off. I’m going to cheer for the injured as they learn to walk and run again. I’m going to do my darndest to get a number and run Boston next year and I’m going to turn right on Hereford and left on Boylston and cross the finish line with a giant grin on my face and I’m going to hug the living daylights out of the first spectator I see.
We’re one Boston and we’re one human kind.
No more hurting people. Peace.