I was stuck underground on the train for a good half hour today. A minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, seeing as there were literally explosions happening around a mile from where I was, but I didn’t know that. They kept making vague announcements about police activity and I figured somebody was shot. Eventually when the train moved it went through three stations without stopping. When I was finally above ground again and out of the immediate area my phone started buzzing with text after text. People asking if I was okay over and over, my housemates and friends and exes.
I stopped somebody on the street and asked if she knew what was happening. She said she didn’t, but that she was wondering too. We stood there trying to find information on our cell phones while I gave her son a pack of stickers I had in my bag to distract him. She was the first to find something. “Oh god.” She said, “a bomb went off at the marathon.”
Boston and Cambridge and Somerville and all the places I spend my time in have tons of young adults. All around me at the coffee shop I was at people were answering their cell phones with “I’m fine, mom, I’m fine” and “don’t worry, grandma.” The coffee shop decided to close as there were still reports that things might be happening in the area. I went with a church friend back to her house while things got sorted.
And it was kind of scary and kind of nerve-wracking and yet all too familiar. I’ve been through this before. We, as a country, have been through this before. September 11th happened during my first week of high school and I’ve never known this country as anything but a culture where my shoes are a threat at the airport but an assault rifle in someone’s car is normal.
I sat with my friend Jess and we watched the coverage, saw friends update their status to say they were okay, and waited for the public transit jam to let up so I could go home. It seemed normal and almost routine to not be more freaked out.
But while it may not be extraordinary in the grand scheme of the world and it may seem like more American self-centrism that we focus so much on this when so many more die around the world daily I can’t help but get a little defensive when people minimize the damage with statements like, “Did you know that 30 were killed in Afghanistan today? Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?”
I mourn for all those lost in large, tragic displays of human violence and in smaller tragedies of cancer and car wrecks. I mourn because I am a person who values other people but it’s okay to mourn at a different level when the city you live in and love in is attacked.
My dear Bostonians, let yourself mourn if mourning is what you need to do. Let yourself mourn without guilt that your mourning is a ‘first world problem.’ Let yourself stand in community or solitude, whatever feeds your soul. Cry out to your God, or your gods, or simply into the stillness for an end to needless violence without worrying that you aren’t crying out for the ‘right’ things. Let yourself be grounded in resolve to work for peace and healing. Let yourself breathe.