We see so much violence and hatred in the media these days that we are often numb to the newest incident. It’s not that we don’t care — we just can no longer absorb the seemingly never-ending barrage. Until the incident strikes at your heart.
I sat in shock when I saw the explosions in Boston at the marathon finish line. And then I started to cry. Because this isn’t one more tragedy. Boston is my hometown.
For years, I lived and worked just a few blocks from where the blasts occurred and I know the neighborhood well, because the nearly 400-year old Boston is just that — a bundle of neighborhoods. Townhouses and student dorms overlook the narrow Back Bay streets that once hosted carriages and horses. Boylston Street is lined with businesses and boutique retailers, and the magnificent Boston Public Library faces Copley Plaza, overshadowed by the mirror-like John Hancock building and the Pru (Prudential Tower). Like San Francisco, people walk everywhere in Boston.
The 117-year old Boston Marathon is a deeply-rooted tradition of which Bostonians are very proud, and it draws people from every walk of life to celebrate this event’s history and the marathoners. It’s held every year on Patriots Day, a state holiday commemorating the opening battle of the revolution.
I ran in the Boston Marathon back in 1981 as part of a relay team, and still can vividly remember the cheering crowds every mile. I attended dozens of marathons, one of many thousands that line the 26-mile journey, cheering the runners as they pound through Boston’s streets, shouting them on to the finish. Just like the people Monday who never suspected a bomb was waiting to devastate their lives.
To see the blood, to hear of the carnage in a place you know intimately, hollows out the soul. As of this writing, three people are reported dead, dozens maimed. By some craven coward, for what?
Imagine if some lunatic triggered explosions at one of our local fairs. Suddenly the violence becomes horribly real.
This also marks the second time I have had to grab the phone during a terrorist attack and make sure a friend was safe. The first was at 9-11. A friend worked in one of the World Trade towers, and I spent hours trying to see if she escaped. My Boston friend was fortunately out of town, glued to the TV like me.
Bostonians are a hardy bunch, like the Patriots for whom the day is named. It takes time for them to become your friend, but they are fiercely loyal to you once they do. In times of crisis, they bind together to help, to reach out, to seek solutions, whether it’s during a blizzard or a disaster. Memorials will spring up where innocent victims were attacked. The Boston Globe will cover their stories intimately.
And in the tragedy of what has just happened Boston, we should all be reminded of the bitter truth of the 21st century. Senseless violence can happen anywhere, any place, any time. And no matter how numb you get to it, when it happens in a place dear to you, it hurts like hell.
Newcorn is a a Modesto marketing consultant, author and freelance writer whose columns appear regularly in The Modesto Bee. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.