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One Week Later

April 22, 2013


The news has been my houseguest for the past week. First, images of explosions, marathoners stumbling over their last strides, chaos, and raw emotion intruded into an otherwise beautiful, relaxing Patriot’s Day. I watched the news splashing across the tv screen, trying to wrap my mind around what was happening, and perhaps more to the point, why. Then I became glued to my iPhone as friends, family, and people from all corners of my life were trying to figure out where I was and if I was ok.

In the aftermath of the bombings, I turned once again to the tv, but also to twitter, facebook, news websites to keep up with the developments, but many of those days seemed a blur and only to reiterate what I had seen so many times on Monday afternoon. As the week went by, I streamed eloquent speeches by numerous city officials, and by the President, happy to put words to all that I was feeling. By Thursday, when the FBI showed two suspects in hope that crowdsourcing would help draw them out, the news had made the transition from a welcome short-term visitor who provided useful information, to an emotional, needy one who caused me stress. How many times must I be confronted with images that reinforce the fragility of life? The proximity of hate?

After a walk to try to help absorb (and simultaneously remove) the images I had seen so many times throughout the day, I ended up on Boylston street where a makeshift memorial to the victims has forever implanted in my mind. TV be damned, this actually made those hairs on my arm stand up. Finally Friday morning I awoke thinking I might go for a run but instead heard my phone buzzing filled with messages to stay safe and stay home from work. Good thing the media had pretty much moved in; as fast as my fingers could go I was on Facebook and Twitter, the tv a constant noise in the background telling me that the two bombers had been living a mere 10 minutes from where I was sitting in my pajamas.

And, lockdown. Just me, my roommate, and as much information as the internet can contain. We watched the news for 11 hours straight, hoping minute by minute, that this would all be over. After what felt like a bad mashup of CSI, criminal minds, and Homeland, it was over. Videos of people celebrating in Boston Common took over large chunks of the news websites; patriotism lit up the city like fireworks on the fourth of July.

But the news remained a permanent fixture in my life, even as I ran out of the city, it was all anyone wanted to discuss. Who are these people? Why did they do this? Where is Chechnya?

Today marks one week since the bombings. I can say that thankfully, the news has pretty much moved out. I no longer feel trapped under its heavy addicting presence, like if I moved away I’d surely miss some crucial development or public safety concern.

As the events of the past week settle in and I’ve had the chance to reflect, I can join the symphony of voices to say that I am proud to be a Bostonian. I have come to realize the power of community. The immediacy with which people turned to help is astounding. A google doc detailing free places to stay was viral in no time, chalk messages of strength and love are all over the back bay, anyone with any medical training or inclination jumped into the fury to bring people to area hospitals . . . the sense of community was palpable. Boston is a strong community; one that believes in the power of sports to instill spirit, one full of generosity and and one that finds strength among loss.

So yes, it is perhaps more dangerous to live in a city and congregate in large groups as many people did around the Boston Marathon finish line, but it is perhaps nearly as dangerous to avoid that risk. Recently, a number of thoughtful articles have articulated both the danger and the resilience that stems from us living in such close proximity and interacting as we do in cities. The Boston Globe published a great article about the vulnerability of urban living, stating that within that risk may also lie the seeds of recovery. An MIT urban planning student published a thoughtful post about the systems we’ve created and perhaps the ripple effects those systems may create. The Atlantic Cities describes the psychology of a city lockdown and how the city actually locked itself down.

Cities are constantly changing, and hopefully in the face of natural disasters and horrific events like the one a week ago, we can help cities become increasingly resilient. As was echoed across the Commonwealth today at 2:50pm, just a week after the bombings, we are #BostonStrong. I believe in the power of people now more than ever, and I believe in the power of community. Happy Earth Day!

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