I thought of writing this yesterday, then thought it might be better to wait a day until my thoughts cleared.
Another act of terrorism on American soil. Domestic, international… nobody knows yet and in the short term it doesn’t really matter. What matters are the victims and their families.
9/11 was horrifying, terrifying, and enraging. The Boston bombings are these… and personal.
Before 9/11, I had never visited New York, other than a brief change of buses at Penn Station. I have a dim memory of meeting Rob and eating my first knish (at his insistence) but that’s it. I was in the city less than two hours. And even if the World Trade Center were attacked today rather than eleven and a half years ago, my memories would still be that of a tourist.
In many ways, the Marathon bombings feel not so much like 9/11 as they do they Centennial Park bombings in 1996. Aside from the fact that they are very much of the same scale (and so much smaller than the WTC attacks), they were attacks on places that have been home, that matter to me in ways that New York did not and does not.
The Boston area was my home for four of the most transformative years of my life. There are real memories there.
Most of those memories are places other than Boston itself: Wellesley. Newton, where the Green line ended. Cambridge, across the Harvard Bridge from Back Bay. Kendall, Central, Harvard Square. Mass Ave. The Infinite Corridor. Steve’s in Somerville. Senior House.
But there are memories of Boston, proper, as well. Some of those are, like my memories of New York, tourist memories: Old North Church, the Commons, The Freedom Trail.
Others are not. Rob’s Back Bay apartment (on the same street as the Cheer’s bar, really called the Bull and Finch), where I met the skinniest, geekiest kid I had ever met in my life. (I later married him.) The theater — I can’t recall which one — where Sherene and I went to see Godspell, in her beat up old VW station wagon, the one that threatened to collapse completely underneath us. Sitting in front of the band shell for hours waiting for the Fourth of July Boston Pops concert. The butcher in Haymarket where the Rocket Scientist and I would get our meat the summer we lived together before my junior year. Eric talking about dropping acid and watching the bricks on the plaza in front of Government Center rotate in concentric circles.
No-name’s clam chowder. Not having enough money for T fare once and walking through the red light district at midnight, trying to look tough and mean and not in the least scared out of my wits. Gleefully hopping across the entrance to the Callahan Tunnel on crutches in front of oncoming traffic.
And the cabbies! There was mine, who very early on a frigid December morning, offered me Shakespeare and hot chocolate. And Vickie’s, who said “Let me get this straight. For fifty bucks, you want me to get you from the MIT Student Center to Logan in half-an-hour at rush hour and you don’t care how I do it?” He got the fifty bucks (which was a lot more thirty years ago than it is today), mainly by driving at high speed the wrong way down one-way streets. I think he probably was in it for the challenge as much as for the fifty.
Boston cabbies. Gotta love ’em.
The Marathon was special. It was run on Patriot’s Day (the real Patriot’s Day, not that made up name for September 11th*), to celebrate the battles at Lexington and Concord and the start of the Revolutionary War. I never saw the Marathon in Boston.
I saw the Marathon out at Wellesley, the halfway point, where there was a school tradition of lining the route next to the college, and screaming for (and offering kisses to!) every single runner, from the world champions to the guy from Des Moines who ran a five hour race. Every single one.
There will be other Boston Marathons. Bostonians are tough cookies; they’re not going to let some scumball end over a century of tradition.
But for now, this hurts.
*The use of Patriot Day for September 11th irks me. There is nothing patriotic about simply being murdered with no notice — as opposed to fighting for your country. I would be all behind a movement to call it “Heroic First Responders Day,” however.