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April 15, 2013. 10:30 AM. My alarm cuts through the silence of my quiet dorm room. I lay in bed for a little until I get the motivation to finally move. I place my feet on the cool tile floor and stumble to my closet. I pick out an outfit and try hard not to wake my sleeping roommate. This is usually my daily routine, only today is a bit different. Today is Patriot’s Day, which marks the city of Boston’s 117th annual marathon, and my first as a college student and Massachusetts resident. I rush to get ready and meet my friends Sarah and Dany in the lobby of our building. The first athletes are expected to cross the finish line around 11:15, and we don’t want to miss any of the action. The weather is nice, the Sox are playing at home, and many people are milling about the streets. We take in these sights and remark how lucky we are to be living in the city. The closer we get to the race the more crowded the streets become. Our search for a prime photo-op spot proves to be fruitless, so we decide instead to perch ourselves on a small window ledge of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. From here we are able to see a slew of hand cyclists who whizz by us to the finish line. We see young couples kissing, people with their dogs, and parents cradling their small children, who struggle to hold balloons with their tiny fingers and wave simultaneously at passersby. People of alls races and walks of life have come out today to enjoy one of the city’s greatest events. An elderly woman reaches out to Sarah and hands her a sign to hold up in support of the runners. We each run into people we attended our respective high schools with and exchange quick hellos. Sarah learns one of her high school friends is even running in the race. We watch the runners pass us on their way to victory. The crowd is wild, cheering and clapping for each person who sprints to the finish line. Around 2:20, we get hungry and decide to leave. We head back down the street the way we came. At one point, we are literally at a standstill within the crowd for almost five minutes. In my head I jokingly think how easily this crowd could trample us. After pushing our way out of the gridlock, we head to Dany’s favorite place for lunch. After lunch we make our way back to Emmanuel. I lay down, exhausted and hoping to take a nap.
Several minutes later I am woken up by my roommate who frantically tells me two bombs have gone off at the finish line. We run across the hall to watch the footage on our neighbor’s TV. It’s now 3:15. We stand in silence, transfixed on the images on the television. My roommate and neighbor are visibly shaken. They had also just been spectators at the marathon. Our floor mates and others wander through the open door to see what’s on the television. No one talks. The sounds of sirens blaring fill the air. We are all pretty used to this, considering our school’s close proximity to the local hospitals, but today the sirens sound different. No one can believe this is really happening. One by one our phones begin to stop working. Someone walks by the room and says the cell towers aren’t working, another girl runs down the hallway in tears. Our campus goes into lockdown and anxiety and fear are felt by many. We stay glued to the TV for the next three hours, becoming more and more horrified by each passing minute. More bombs had been found, and the injury count had skyrocketed. I learn that police have found and destroyed a bomb that was next to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Sarah and I begin to cry at what could have been had we decided to stay several minutes more. When our phones begin to work again, each of us immediately tries to make contact with our families and friends. Thankfully, all of my friends at surrounding colleges are safe and off the streets. I am thankful to hear the voices of my loved ones. Many students here at Emmanuel were at the race and saw things no one, no matter their age, should ever see. I think of all the people I saw today-the loving couples, fellow college students, babies, families and the elderly woman who spoke with Sarah. I wonder if they have survived, and how this has impacted them and their extended families. I am overcome with terror and grief at the innocence that was taken at the finish line today. As of now there are little answers. A day that started off as routine as almost any other, has been forever changed for those affected by the horrible atrocities that occurred.
I wrote the above piece in the days following the marathon for another online publication. I guess it was just my way of documenting what had happened. Someone did a bad thing, and I was there.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you know the amount of marathon related coverage Bostonians have been inundated with, especially this past week. On nearly every corner you can find blue and yellow t-shirts, hats, and basically anything else we can slap the words “Boston Strong” onto. Frankly it’s overkill. It trivializes how well the city handled that day and the days following the bombing. So, sorry. I’m not super cool with a bunch of tourists buying a “Boston Strong” t-shirt from the friggin’ kiosks in the Pru and feeling like they’ve helped out. Stop commodifying tragedy. Stop making it a tourist gimmick.
People have lost sight of what that slogan-now a glorified and overused hastag-was intended to mean for this city during a time of need.
My hope is that in years to come when people think of the Boston Marathon, they don’t associate it with blue and yellow bumper stickers, or even the Tsarnaev brothers. Rather, let them remember the goodness of others. Let them remember the strength, love and perseverance that flowed through this city just like the Charles. Let them remember the first responders, law enforcement, helpers, and most importantly the survivors. Let them remember the runners who ran past the finish line to hospitals to donate blood and the runners who will run again in Monday’s 118th Boston Marathon.
Let all of this serve as a reminder that Boston is full of citizens who don’t let a city wide lock down get in the way of our daily Dunkin’, that we are a city founded by revolutionaries, and it takes a hell of a lot more than the ignorant and evil actions of two men to cripple us.
For these reasons, and many more, I am grateful and proud to call the city of Boston my home.