It doesn't seem quite real that the marathon bombings happened two weeks ago today. In some ways it feels like it happened ages ago, and in others, it feels like it is still happening. I am acutely aware of the sound of a siren or a helicopter, wondering what new disaster is upon us. And I still feel a sense of disequilibrium that is a nearly constant reminder of the horror we all experienced so recently. I feel a little off kilter, as if my legs aren't quite under me, like I might fall with the next step.
When hearing the news on April 15th, and images of ambulances tearing toward hospitals across the city filled the television screen, I did a quick mental check to locate family and friends who may have been in, or at, the marathon. Three phone calls later and I could check off the immediate family - check, check, and check. I couldn't think of any friends who had planned to watch the marathon from the finish line. So we were ok. Until Friday.
I woke that morning to Pat returning to bed at 7:00 am, stunned that the T was not running, and his office was closed, an absolutely surreal turn of events. We got up, made coffee, and turned on the TV to see what was happening to our world. Seeing neighboring Watertown under siege, and unable to reach Willy who lives there, had us panicky for almost an hour, even though we could see that the area of Watertown being searched was several blocks from his apartment. Willy finally returned our calls, and assured us that he was all right, though in shock at what was happening so close by.
As soon as we heard from him, I left to pick up the 13 7/8th graders who had spent the previous three days at Overlook Farm in Rutland, MA, on an adventure with Heifer Project International as part of Junior Youth Group. I listened to the radio on the drive there, and was shaking by the time I arrived.
Knowing that their parents were experiencing the same kind of heightened anxiety that I was feeling, I just wanted to get them home safely. They seemed happy, though tired and a little hungry when I arrived. They also wanted to know everything I knew about what was unfolding at home, and I hesitated to tell them. First of all, so much of what was being reported, even on NPR, was speculative at that point. Stories swirled around and many untruths were shared that morning. Secondly, these kids are only 13 years old. I grappled with what to say to them. My instinct was to reassure and protect them. But the three girls in my car wanted to hear it all. Even if I had chosen not to turn on the radio, they each were carrying smart phones, and were watching the coverage on-line. I decided that listening to the radio was better than seeing the visuals, so I asked them to turn off their phones as we listened and talked about what it all meant. They wondered how long it might take a person to walk from Watertown to Lexington, clearly worried that the suspect might wander into their own town. They wondered who would sell a bomb to a 19 year old, and were shocked when I told them the bombs were home made with objects anyone could buy in a hardware or kitchen goods store. And they wondered what kind of people would wreak such havoc on their city. We talked about Unitarian Universalist values and living a life committed to peace. And we talked about the importance of community, in particular our First Parish community, in times of trouble.
We returned to Lexington, driving past the closed Battlegreen, and the bullet- proof-vested officers guarding it. The kids were safely in the arms of their families. I had completed my mission for the day, and returned home, unable to attend to much other than watching, transfixed as the news unfolded minute by minute. We phoned Willy every now and then to see how he was holding up in Watertown. One of his housemates is a Newton police officer on a 24 hour shift in Watertown, and was giving Willy first hand intelligence that the media was not reporting. We knew more than we wanted to believe.
To hear Willy talk about the circling helicopters, the sounds of a bomb going off in his neighborhood in the early morning on Friday and the bursts of gunfire so close by is harrowing. To understand that this happened in our beloved city, is unfathomable. But it is our new reality. Like you, I am saddened, stunned, and shaken, even though my family and I are safe, and were not personally affected. But we're not quite fully recovered, obviously. I wonder if we ever will be?
Hold those you love extra close right now, especially your children. Even those of us not personally connected to this trauma are suffering, and need the reassurance that life will resume to a new normal. We're just not there yet.