There is no small irony that my last blog post was about tea for the soul. I had no idea that what we were experiencing with illness was just the beginning. This will be a divergence from the usual tea talk, so look away if you must.
Everyone finally recovered from their health issues, but things certainly got worse before they got better. Three sick children is certainly a challenge, but three sick children with two different viruses in the same month? Wretched. And when each of the two illnesses lasts more than a week for each child. Mind-blowing. But then…
Those of you who have been reading for awhile are likely aware that I live outside of Boston. Like so many, my first days in this area were for college. I grew up in Maine and, ironically, had never really wanted to live in a city. When selecting colleges, however, I knew I wanted a competitive school with a strong science curriculum. This I found in many places. I decided to stay in New England so I would actually be able to get home for holidays. Financial resources were not going to allow for cross-country travel beyond the start and end of the school year. And in the end, proximity to the Boston Red Sox became a decisive factor.
And so, I came to the Boston area. This non-city girl loved every minute of riding subways, visiting museums, attending shows and concerts and, yes, Sox games. When it came to picking a graduate school I realized that I had every intention of settling in the area so, although I was accepted to more prestigious programs, I chose a school in Boston…Roxbury actually, connected to Boston City Hospital. (And before everyone gets all in a huff, let me be clear that it was a great program and provided me with the education I needed and wanted.) Small town girl no more. (Sort of.) My then-boyfriend/now-husband and I got an apartment in the city and we both walked to work. It was fantastic. Eventually we headed for the suburbs and then, when we bought our home, into a place that put us less than 45 minutes from the city. We wanted our kids to love the city like we do.
And so, on Monday, April 15 we sat in our family room with the three kids watching the start of the Boston Marathon. We explained the tradition to the kids and talked about the friends they knew who would be running – parents of friends from soccer, dads from Scouts, former coaches…It was a spectacular day outside so we decided to venture into Concord to enjoy being immersed in history on a day that is also Patriots Day here in Massachusetts. We were just walking into a bookstore when my husband saw the first text alert about the explosions at the Marathon. I remember actually stopping still. I was utterly frozen. Horrified. I didn’t immediately start ticking off the people we knew there. That came after the news sunk in. Those were the panicked moments of texts and Facebook check-ins and emails. My first thought was, “Who would do that to OUR city?” It felt like the ultimate violation. Someone had sullied OUR place. We may live in the far outer suburbs but Boston is HOME.
I started getting texts from my brother. Cell networks were jammed and shut down (for fear that phones would be used to trigger more explosions.) News was hard to get because systems were so overloaded. Over the rest of the day we confirmed that all our friends and their families were safe. It felt like a miracle given how many we knew in that block of runners, but we counted our blessings. Then came the news of friends of friends who weren’t so lucky. Trying to shield our kids from the news we were restricted to what we could view on our phone in quick snippets. Surreal.
I felt sick as I realized I was suddenly afraid to take the kids into the city, postponing a trip I was planning with my son to the circus, wondering when I’d feel safe to go back, trying to imagine…and not to imagine…what might come next.
Just three days later I was sitting on the couch, thinking I should head off to bed, when I saw a news alert that there had been a shooting at MIT. I immediately knew that the story was continuing. I began frantically checking news sites online, flipping channels, and sinking into deeper horror as the news unfolded of grenades and shootouts in the suburbs. I could picture those streets, knowing exactly where they were, mentally ticking off distances to our friends and family. We watched until 5:30 a.m., desperately hoping there would be resolution. We woke up 2 hours later, wondering how long it could continue. 9000 police roaming quiet suburban neighborhoods, lockdowns, house searches, people told to go to the side of their house furthest from houses they were inspecting.
In the end, while the story is still playing out, that piece of the story ended with one suspect dead and another in custody. Investigations and arrests will continue. But each day I find myself struck by the strength of the people here and their fierce commitment to one another. Often described as cold and unfriendly, Bostonians, and all New Englanders actually, are loyal to one another. An 8-year-old boy was killed while his mom and sister were seriously injured. This tore at my heart. The boy’s dad had grown up in a Mass. community where I have family. Since I was a kid we’ve gotten popcorn from a shop there and that place decided to do a sale. Lines formed 45 minutes before they opened and didn’t stop for the next 9-1/2 hours. They sold more than 900 batches, raising in excess of $14,000. A local high school senior was severely injured by shrapnel and suffered a severed fermoral artery. (Her mom lost both legs.) As she celebrated her 18th birthday in the hospital, another local man who lost both legs, brought her a birthday present.
I guess, in the end, the story for me has become one of redemption. It is those flickers of light when it seems darkest. It was the people who ran towards the explosions to help. It was the first responders who volunteered to help in Watertown. It was those who offered their homes and warm blankets to victims in the immediate moments after the events. It was the kids who set up an “alternate finish line” on a town green to let a friend who had been diverted from the route 100 yards before finishing her first marathon celebrate the completion of a 26 mile run. It is every nurse, doctor, police officer, EMT, firefighter… every one of them…who saw things that will change them forever, but kept doing their jobs. Those are the stories we need to tell. Those are the things that will heal our hearts and souls. It is the inherent goodness in people at a moment when you could easily start to think of the world as full of hate.
To these people, the heroes of the day, who help us to heal and to all who have shown the full depth of their caring for one another, I raise a cuppa to you. Together we are Boston Strong.