It was a beautiful day in London today, sunny and mild with a warm breeze that teases the delayed start of spring and impending summer warmth.
It was a beautiful day in London today, but I felt angry, sad, confused and helpless as to how it could be so beautiful in London when Boston was living in fear, sadness and trauma.
Marathon Monday in Boston is every Bostonian’s favorite time of the year. An international freshman to Boston University in 2008, my friends explained to me on the moldy floors of “Warren 5A” that the Boston Marathon was the most anticipated event of the year; people flood the streets and revel in the cheers of the Boston runners. Underage students try to slip by unnoticed, drinking bottles of colorful concoctions. The streets are closed, making it impossible to go from Back Bay to Beacon without wanting to throw a tantrum. But because it’s such a happy day, the angst turns into a mild acceptance, knowing that this day, this one and only day, is the Boston crowd’s day.
It’s difficult being away from a place you called home for four years. My friends are hurt, sad, shaken and lost. What was supposed to be the most joyful day in Boston turned into the gloomiest. I feel helpless from London and though I see the headlines of the Evening Standard, The Independent, or catch the front page story elsewhere, I just think they don’t understand.
If you haven’t seen the Boston Marathon, it’s difficult to understand the weight of these explosions. Boston is a tiny city, primarily known for the number of universities attracting thousands upon thousands of students each year making it a colorful, vibrant city even in the depth of the black and white walls of the winter snow.
The people of Boston have character and tenacity. They drive like mad hatters and are unpredictable, but when push comes to shove they’re the most reliable people I’ve met.
Boston has seen me at my worst times and I can say, without any exception, that Boston only showed me its best.
I make fun of myself for not having a home. My father is French. My mother is Belarusian. I was born and lived in London for 10 years, then moved to Paris until I was 18. I make fun of myself for no patriotism, or lack of nationalism, but today is different.
When 9/11 struck I was 11, and didn’t understand that acts of terrorism didn’t mean an “accident” had occurred. I didn’t understand that there was evilness and hatred.
But when I saw the news Monday night GMT time and the Facebook newsfeed floods of “We’re safe and away from the finish line.” My heart raced and all I could feel was a knot in my throat tighten. How could this be? The best day in the world shattered by the tasteless will to hurt and kill.
I had woken up that morning envying my friends as they biked past the finish line from the Midnight Marathon Bike ride, which I had attended a year prior. I thought of them all day as they gazed at the runners, coming down Beacon Street, past Kenmore Square and the beautiful classic residences of Comm. Ave leading them to Back Bay, through the Berklee Campus, restaurants, shops, cafes buzzing like an endless ball of energy.
I wanted to be there and have fun with them. I wanted to be there and get drunk in the streets perhaps, either cold from the moody Boston winds or sweltering in the heat that we witnessed in 2012. This was the day that reminded me of my first Marathon Monday: naïve liberation in the midst of something superb and exceptional, a race with some of the fastest people you would ever see.
So today I am proud to be an American even if just on paper. My four years in Boston showed me the strength and hardiness of Bostonians and all Americans. I don’t only want to be there for the good times Boston, but I want to be there with you now too. I want to sit in a room with you and hold you, watch you, carry you and no word need be uttered.
Helplessness, I realized, is the worst feeling for an individual. One that we are perhaps used to in doses of every day life: job rejection, heartbreak, divorce, disease, a failing course even but moments like these are too overwhelming and Atlantic ocean side, all I’ve been wanting to do is scream from the horrific event.
I’m proud to be an American and a Bostonian because I know my American home will brave through this storm. You are trying to break us, but you will not. You have failed before and failed on Monday, that was a cheap shot and a low blow.
Yann Martel beautifully wrote in Life of Pi that “the reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity—it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud.”
We need to keep running Boston. From the victims at the attack to other separated by distance, anyone with support, encouragement and love has a shining light that will push Boston out of this darkness. Let’s keep running together Boston, we don’t stop. We have our Marathon to finish.
I was born in London and lived there until I was 10. Moved to Paris until 18 when I started my undergraduate degree in Journalism at Boston University in 2008. I now live in London again, pursuing a degree in Politics at the University of London.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel