I don’t usually post about serious topics, nor do I really feel qualified to offer any social commentary, but the bombing in Boston on Marathon Monday has been on my mind, and as this is an expat experience, I’ll attempt to document my feelings and thoughts here.
I was in Barcelona this Monday, on vacation with two of my classmates. My friends were looking at the news that night, and when I got out of the shower, they asked me, “Ana, what time is it in Boston?” and followed up with “There was a bombing at the marathon.” I had no idea that it was Marathon Monday. Patriots Day was such a big deal at MIT because we always had a 4-day weekend, but it wasn’t a holiday at work so it had fallen off my radar a bit over the past couple years.
I immediately booted up my computer so that I could check my e-mail and make sure everyone I knew was okay. I was so frustrated when my calls on Skype wouldn’t connect and tried to convince myself that if something had happened, someone would have tried to tell me already. No news is good news. I have never been so thankful for social media, being able to chat with people online to hear that they and others are safe, to see Facebook statuses and know that they were unharmed. Also, for once so glad and relieved that a friend is always even later than I think he will be, because he hadn’t quite made it to the finish line yet to watch the runners that afternoon.
I don’t know if being abroad has been a good thing or a bad thing. I am grateful that I am safe and, ashamed though I am to admit it, removed enough that I can sleep okay at night and possibly think about other things during the day. But I still feel angry and sad and it’s frustrating to be somewhere where people are detached. I mean, I guess rightly so. I can’t say I wouldn’t react the same way in their place, so it’s probably unfair of me to judge. But watching BBC almost made me sick. One reporter was interviewing someone who had witnessed the explosion, and when the man mentioned that he smelled the same chemical before, followed up with “So is this the type of bomb that would maximize damage?” Another commentator said, “It’s too early to tell who did this, … but it could very well be an act of domestic terrorism.” I had to plug in my headphones and found a live streaming from NBC instead.
On the other hand, being on vacation in a city that doesn’t speak English made it easier for me to filter out news that I didn’t want to see. After the initial reports of the attack, what I read was news of marathoners finishing the race and continuing to run to MGH to donate blood; Bostonians opening up their homes to marathon runners needing a place to stay; Google’s People Finder page so that people could find their loved ones; photos of the bomb exploding where you can see first responders already running to help. Now I read about the police questioning and apartment search of a Saudi national who witnessed the attack and offered to help or the sensationalist misreporting of number of victims and who was responsible, but I was glad to be ignorant for the past couple days.
A post I read that really stuck with me was one by someone who had gone to college in Boston. He said, we may not be from Boston, but we are of Boston. From the solidarity runs being organized in other cities, to the cartoon where a dad tells his son, “We are Yankees fans, but today we root for Boston,” these tributes from Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, to this rendition of the National Anthem… all I can say is that I am proud to be an American and proud to be of Boston.