I looked down at my phone after Spanish class, and saw a few notifications on my screen. Then I looked closer. One was a text from my best friend, telling me about the explosion at the Boston Marathon. Another was a push notification from the Washington Post, confirming the same.
I hate push notifications. I don’t even know why I turned on the WaPo ones, but I leave them on because they’re pretty infrequent. When I see one, I know the issue is serious.
The word “BOSTON” jumped out at me from my phone screen, making it impossible to see anything else. That was my city. Only 20 minutes from my hometown of Lexington, Mass. – the place where I explored with my high school friends and went out to dinner with my family on special occasions and worked for two summers. The place I once got stuck on the T underground for three hours during my morning commute. The place my mom’s family got its history, the place my grandparents got their accents. People were dying there, and no one had an explanation.
On the five-minute walk from Kresge back to my dorm I already heard people talking about it. I got texts from a couple of my friends, asking if I had heard and if I was okay. I frantically tried to load Twitter on my phone, not sure if I wanted to see the details but knowing I needed to. My entire feed was about Boston – every major news station posting updates, every person sending prayers, no matter how miniscule their connection to the city. That’s when I understood how real this was.
Tragedy had never struck me in this way before. Two friends died in the last three years, but both times I was far from the other people who knew them. I grieved privately, and told almost no one what had happened. When terrible things happened on a national or international scale, I felt collective grief along with everybody else. I tweeted and Facebooked. I tried to figure out just the right thing to say to comfort those who were deeply connected to what had happened. Suddenly I was the deeply connected one, and I didn’t like what I saw on social media. Everyone had an opinion; everyone was generalizing and sensationalizing and sometimes saying things that were totally unhelpful or just wrong.
Soon I found out that my family was safe and so were the families of my friends. There were close calls – my uncle’s office building was right next to the explosion, my friend’s parent was running in the marathon but finished long before the bombs went off. I had never felt so close to a subject of such national concern. For once, I had nothing whatsoever to say, except that I wished I were closer to home. When tragedy strikes, I always want to be around other people who understand.
I’m lucky – no one I love was injured or killed in the explosions, and I was nowhere near the place it happened. In one moment I almost feel like I have no right to feel as upset as I do. In another moment I feel terrible that I’m not more upset, because my city was attacked. Either way, there’s a horrible sick feeling knowing that the place you come from is in trouble, and you’re not there.
It will take years for the Boston Marathon to achieve any semblance of normalcy. For some families, April 15 will always be unthinkably painful. For some, there can be no silver lining to the difficulty they now face. I don’t know what I can say about what happened that would make any sense. But I know that Monday, the people of my city came together and helped each other in the midst of deep fear and darkness. The hatred behind what occurred didn’t have a face, but Bostonians gave a face to love. Somehow, from all the way over here in Evanston, I am connected to that love, and I am proud.