It's been one year. Long enough to stop jumping at every siren. Long enough for that week to stop coming up in every conversation. Long enough to feel safe again. But not long enough to walk down Boylston without remembering. Not long enough to keep it together when I hear stories from that week and from survivors. Not long enough to stop reliving every moment when the television networks reflect on the events that transpired. Not long enough to forget how thankful I am for those small moments and decisions that kept us and our friends safe, for the brave people that saved lives, and for the love and support that followed.
That Wednesday, I went downtown to see the memorials sprouting like spring flowers around the crime scene perimeter. Messages covered every surface. Flags and t-shirts draped over the temporary fences. Piles of flowers formed haphazard gardens dotted with stuffed animal ornaments. Next to them, cameras and spotlights trained on empty chairs as news correspondents waited for something to report. Behind the fences and barricades were armed officers in camouflage and protective gear, pacing next to armored vehicles. Blocks away, I could make out tiny figures cloaked in white, slowly going over every inch of Boylston Street, looking for answers.
Thursday evening at work, after earlier inaccurate reports of a suspect in custody, we clustered around the first computer that was able to load the live stream of the FBI press conference, then wondered how long it would be before the two men in the photographs were identified. We did not have to wait long.
At 6:18 a.m. the next morning, Ian and I were jerked awake by a text message that didn't quite make sense. "Don't know if you guys heard the news, but STAY HOME!" Was it from Monday, somehow lost in transit? What else could warrant such a dire warning? But without knowing, we couldn't go back to sleep. We turned on the TV. It felt like the world was falling apart all over again.
Under lockdown, we stayed on the sofa and watched the reports unfold while checking in with our coworkers who live in Watertown. We heard stories of waking up to the gunfight, and SWAT teams knocking on the door to search the apartment. But they were all safe. We watched as an army of police, arriving in MBTA buses, converged in the mall parking lot just down the street from our office. Every station rolled footage of the slow and methodical search, interrupted only by bursts of police activity, and interviews as officials pieced together the story of the previous night and chased down leads.
That evening when Governor Patrick finally announced the lockdown was over, his directive to "be vigilant" was less than reassuring with a suspect still at large. We made dinner as coverage continued, and wondered how we could possibly feel safe enough to go outside the next day. An hour later, breathless reporters crouched low and spoke to jostling cameras, unsure of what the sudden activity and loud bangs meant, and suddenly a boat was surrounded and it was over.
But it wasn't over. Not for the victims and their families. Not for the suspect and his family. Not for the business owners whose stores were shuttered. Not for the runners who didn't cross the finish line. Not for the medical teams tasked with healing the injured. Not for the city that needed to find a way to move forward.
A week later Boylston was open again, with a message of solidarity. Boston Strong. Over the past year, businesses, bodies, and lives have been put back together. The Sox won the World Series in a triumph that felt like salve to a city on the mend. Scars still show, but they're now reminders, not of the terrible things people do to one another, but of hope and the resilience of the human spirit.
Boston is a city of love stories now.I am still in awe of how our city pulled together, and continues to support each other. A year ago, someone asked if what happened made us want to move back to Kansas. I think it is the opposite. I'm proud to call Boston my home and be a part of this incredible community. Boston Strong.
—Robert, founder of Dear World
Last year, I wrote a response to the events of Marathon Monday 2013 (if you're looking for something more lighthearted, check out the posts and photos from past Marathon Mondays: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010).