It was a beautiful blue-skied morning as I walked to work with a roommate on her way downtown to the Boston Marathon. I've had a love/hate relationship with the Marathon for years in that I've often given it a bit of attitude (for the shutdown of local bus service and not being able to cross the street during the race, for example)... but eventually I always fall in line and get swept up in the joy of the occasion and the festivity of the crowds. The place where I work is located in a well-traveled shopping area neighborhood about two miles from the finish line and is on the actual route of the race itself, so we get to see all the runners and hear all the hoots and hollers of all the supportive people-watchers nearby. Online for a moment between work moments, I saw that a friend who'd gone down to the finish line had Facebooked something alone the lines of "I just heard explosions in Copley at the Marathon, WTF?" And my first thought when reading that was that it must've been fireworks or celebration cannons or something and didn't immediately think anything much of it. (The city sounds-off heavy guns at the Fourth of July on the Esplanade of the Charles River, so it didn't seem a huge stretch at the time.) Not three minutes later, the Facebook status updates of my local friends began coming in fast and furious. Then the links to news reports. And finally one of my co-workers came to my workspace and reported the official word about the bombs going off at the finish line.
The next moments and hours were sad and surreal. We all pretty much stopped working for a while as the emergency vehicles of the surrounding areas tore through our area, headed downtown. I called my Mom and Facebooked friends and family to let them know I was fine. A longtime friend stopped in from watching the race to see check in and see if we were all present and accounted for. She and I walked out around the neighborhood to grab a coffee and talk about what was going on. We saw an oblivious race runner nearly get hit by a speeding squad car. We saw elderly women at the coffee shop at the exact moment that they learned what was happening. Hundreds more runners were just jogging along doing their thing, apparently not in possession of cell phones and most likely not knowing a thing about what was happening just two or three miles up the road. National Guard people climbed into their heavy vehicle and headed off toward the scene. And most everyone was on their cells or smartphones trying to learn more about the causes and/or casualties. Eventually the street was closed and emptied, the trains were shut down and the local neighborhood looked as deserted as it does on an early Sunday morning. Later, I finally heard from my roommate who let us here at the house know that she made it home safe & sound and that she'd fortunately never actually made it downtown to the event, which was a major relief...
At work, we spent most of the rest of the day doing our jobs as usual, checking in on live-streams of local news and chatting with customers about the tragedy. We watched and listened through all the chaos of the multiple bomb reports, facts and falsehoods, the local law enforcement press conferences, the live shots from Copley Square and the city hospitals, the injury and casualty reports, the pop theories and national news chatter. They're still piecing everything together as I write this. There are reports of surveillance pictures of an individual dropping a backpack or backpacks into a trash car or cans as well as news videos and GIFs of the two confirmed blasts at the finish line area and the deep fear and terror of the scared and injured on the scene.
It reminds me of 9/11, of course. Of getting off that underground commuter rail train that morning, coming up to the street and looking up into the sky, watching for low flying planes and building fires, not knowing anything about what was happening except for the cold facts of the destruction and the dead.
It's only been a little over eight hours. So far nobody's claimed responsibility and noone seems to know who or why this happened, just yet. There are no answers just yet and there's actually very little to say. The local emotional vibe is sorrow, confusion and desire for more information, for a name and a face to put to this terrible event. Hopefully we'll get them as the night goes on and the time passes. Tomorrow's a new day and it seems it will be a partly sunny and warm one for this time of year. It will be one in which the departed will be mourned and survivors will hold each other in tearful relief and thanks. I, among others I'm sure, am thankful that this attack wasn't as large as it could've been, all things considered, and am also looking forward to the moment when those who did this are identified and brought to justice. I'm thankful that none of my friends or family were caught in the terror of this afternoon first-hand and am also very sad for the victims that were. There will be joy and sadness tomorrow. But we'll rise in the morning and go on with what we do, as they have in New York and London and Paris and everywhere else that suffers the evil work of cowards. And we'll get through it. As Patton Oswalt said this morning of the violent and hateful and ignorant, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."
I have no such quotes for the ages, no answers and not much in the way of spiritual or even helpful advice. All I have is hope that you are safe and warm with those you love. And a hope that good is stronger than evil. Especially in moments like these, when it seems most difficult to believe.