Yesterday was only the second day I have ever been truly afraid in my city.
The first was a day much like yesterday: an idyllic September day, summer’s last hurrah before the leaves began to turn and bathe the city in shades of red and orange. I was in my first year at Boston Latin School, the oldest public high school in the country. I was sitting in Mr. Simmons’ music class learning about Gregorian chants. I was thinking what a nice day it was outside and how I couldn’t wait to get out of school to go to Roberto Clemente field with my friends.
Then the somber voice of our headmaster, Cornelia Kelly, came over the intercom, announcing that two planes had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. There was confusion and fear as my classmates tried to process the news, with many thinking of family they had in the city. Mr. Simmons let our murmurs continue for a few seconds before telling us to get back to work. Who knows what — or who — he was thinking about. At the time, it seemed cruel to just go back to business as usual, but, in retrospect, I realize he was trying to protect us. There was too much we didn’t know about the situation, and he didn’t want our 12-year-old minds thinking the worst.
Parents called the school wanting to pick up their kids early, not knowing if what happened in New York would happen here. Our teachers and guidance counselors did their best to help us understand what happened. Grief counselors were made available to the students. Everything we knew about the world changed in the blink of eye.
That was nearly 12 years ago, and I remember that day, that scene of my classmates and me sitting in that classroom more vividly than any other day in my 24 years on this planet.
I was working from home yesterday when my mother told me to turn on channel 5. Two explosions had gone off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. My first thoughts were of my fiancé, who lives around the corner from where the two bombs went off. My next was of the victims and their families. After that, my journalistic instincts kicked in, and I wanted to get down there as soon as possible. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near the scene, with the area being cordoned off and public transportation being rerouted or shut down. All I could do was watch from the safety of my home in Hyde Park, 8 miles away from the horror.
Back Bay has always been one of my favorite parts of the city. The Boston Public Library has always been my little slice of heaven. The Copley and Prudential Malls were where I spent the early days of my relationship with the man who will be my husband three months from now. I have never had anything but fond memories of the area. But now I know will never be able to walk those streets with my rose-colored glasses on again.
I watched the news for nearly five hours, writing as much as possible about the bombing and worrying, getting calls and texts and Facebook messages from concerned friends and family. We were all OK, I was happy to report. But some weren’t as fortunate. And that knowledge is absolutely heartbreaking.
One of the victims was an 8-year-old boy named Martin Richard who was waiting to meet his dad at the finish line. As he went back on the sidewalk, one of the bombs went off and he was killed. His sister lost a leg, his mother also wounded. I can’t imagine the pain and fear and anguish their parents felt. Again, my thoughts turned to my fiancé, who was about to pick up his daughter, my soon-to-be stepdaughter. She’s 10, just two years older than Martin. I feared for both of them knowing there was a possibility the danger wasn’t completely over. I said a silent prayer and kept texting him to make sure they were OK.
The thing you have to understand about Boston and its people is that, despite what any surveys or studies say about us being rude or arrogant, we are intensely loyal and caring. Before I left to attend college in New York five years ago, I made connections with other Bostonians and MassHoles — a badge I wear proudly — and when we all met on campus, there was an instant connection. We all had Boston running through our veins.
For 24 years, I have lived, loved, and learned in this city. I was born and raised here, I am getting married here, and I plan to raise my kids here. I have been to other cities, other countries even, but Boston is home. And whoever did this has severely underestimated the strength and will of Bostonians. You cannot stage an attack on our city on Patriot’s Day, a day that commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first military engagements of the Revolutionary War, and get away with it. It will not stand.
This great city that I love, the city of champions, the Hub of the Universe, was bruised, but not broken, Monday. And while we are all looking for answers, wanting to know who wanted to hurt us and why, let us not forget our history. We are a city of fighters, a fact President Obama acknowledged in his press conference yesterday evening. And we can and will get through these troubling days and weeks, and maybe even months, ahead together.