As I sit down to write this, it’s been exactly a week since terrorists detonated two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As somebody who’s been writing a Boston sports blog for a long time now, I felt compelled to weigh in with my take on this story. Given the sensitive nature of the subject matter, I decided to wait a little while before publishing my thoughts – I didn’t want to write anything overly political or have my fresh-from-the-gut emotions spill onto the page without careful consideration.
In lieu of all the events of this past week, I’m happy I waited. Suspect #2, whose name is not worth printing, was finally captured – everyone could not be more relieved about that. While the investigation is ongoing, for the residents of Boston and the neighboring communities, there’s no doubt a chapter of sorts was closed when Suspect #2 was pulled from the boat without harming anyone further.
As far as my own experience last week goes, I took Marathon Monday off from work to head down to the race (something I’ve done each of the last three years). When the attacks occurred I was at Rattlesnake Bar and Grill, which is on Boylston street a few hundred yards from where the bombs went off. I had walked directly through the corridor where the bombs exploded just an hour or so prior. I was in the bathroom when the explosions actually occurred, and I did not hear them. We were asked to stay at the bar, so despite my proximity to the attack I did not see the carnage or aftermath that everyone watching on TV saw. The sounds of ambulance sirens and helicopter traffic soon washed over me, but for someone who was so close I could not have been farther away. Eventually we were led through the kitchen and out the back entrance of the bar, and were told to get out of the area promptly. With public transportation shut down I walked to Boston Common and eventually found a cab home.
That wasn’t the end of my close (only in proximity) encounters with this event. On Thursday night I was riding the subway (we call it the “T” here in Boston) home when we paused for a bit at Kendall Station, which sits directly below MIT. I was sitting underground, with just a few stories of concrete separating me from the terrorists as they killed the MIT officer who was responding to the scene. As we now know, the terrorists would eventually take off from the area, leading police on wild chase while engaging them in a firefight and hurling explosives out the window. Again, I had no idea of the mayhem happening in my immediate vicinity when it was occurring.
On Friday, work was canceled and I spent the day, like everybody else, largely locked inside watching the news as law enforcement officials worked furiously to capture Suspect #2.
There’s no doubt that last week was the craziest week I’ve has while a resident of Boston. Following Suspect #2′s capture on Friday evening, the atmosphere in the bars throughout Boston resembled a championship celebration for one of the city’s sports teams. Chants of “USA, USA!” lingered throughout the night. But as I walked a couple of blocks home that night, down very safe streets, I couldn’t help but notice that something felt different. The streets that have long been so familiar to me, part of my everyday routine, just didn’t feel as safe as they once had.
It seems clear to me that the older brother became a follower of radical Islamic beliefs in the past few years while living in the US. I hate to speculate, but I’d be shocked if his trip home in late 2012 didn’t include some sort of meeting or training with other followers of similar beliefs. He then imposed his views and will on his younger brother, who it sounds like was a much more “normal” kid of just 17 or 18 at the time. When you’re that age a 26-year-old brother’s influence, I imagine, can be quite substantial.
Whatever the beliefs are that led to this attack, and whether you believe them or not, the attack was cowardly. I don’t care if you pray to Allah or your pet rock, killing innocent bystanders is never admirable in the eyes of any person, group, or entity capable of rational thought. But I do think that American’s need to be less naive with regards to where this anger may all stem from. There are countless countries, sects, and groups of people who lived much more suppressed lives with much less freedom than we are afforded in the US.
The US military is engaged in countless countries throughout the world at this very moment. Whether we’re there to take down the Taliban, stop genocide, or play peacemaker in some capacity – really regardless of why we’re there – to the people of those countries not directly involved in the conflict our presence can be terrifying. They are looking outside their windows and seeing army men with automatic weapons walking by. When we miss a strategic target (and we do) we are killing innocent bystanders. While we can (and do) rationalize our involvement, the reality is that we’ve often brought terror to innocent people in those areas. It’s not “terrorism,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not terrifying. And while Boston got a taste of what that feels like this past week, there are places throughout the world that deal with similar (and much worse) incidents on a nearly daily basis.
There’s no doubt that Boston’s reaction to this tragedy was incredibly heroic, coordinated, and impressive. Barack Obama, Jon Daily, and Steven Colbert all shared some pretty spectacular sentiments about Boston this past week, sentiments that definitely were heard and appreciated by the city’s residents. Trust me everyone – I’m already starting to get annoyed with the “Boston Strong!” slogan just as you are. And yes, I think that the residents of any major US city would have responded just as heroically as the people of Boston did.
All of that said, there is something unique about this city and its residents. You all know our city’s loyalty to our sports teams, and we have been something of a different bread from the get-go. We did up and move to this place (America) in the first place. We did throw a bunch of English tea into our Harbor, and we did fight the American Revolution. It certainly has something to do with the size of this city, but there’s just a sense of community in Boston that I’ve never found in another city and know that I never will.
I’m leaving Boston to move to San Diego in a month, and it didn’t hit me how much I’ll miss this place until very recently. All the things that have long pissed me off about Boston I’m now looking at with a sense of nostalgia. And all of the great aspects of the city remain. I’ll always be happy to return.
So a note to all those TITs out there (terrorists in training) – “this is our fucking city” – David Ortiz said it best. And if you fuck with us, then you’re fucking with all of us. That goes for Boston, that goes for America, and that should go for everybody who realizes the cowardice of people who turn to terrorism in an attempt to make their own voice or rational heard.