Like Punxsutawney Phil emerging from his cave in Pennsylvania, squinting from the sunlight, folks in my hometown emerged from lock-down yesterday morning. On the surface, it was an ordinary weekend morning in spring, a stop at Peet’s for coffee, the dry cleaners, drugstore, the usual. But of course nothing was really usual as we started picking up the pieces from this past week, trying to make sense of it.
The sun, the forsythia, the hyacinths and daffodils, the tender new leaves on the linden tree and the opening blossoms on the pear trees along Center Street, all whispered renewal. For the direct victims of the Marathon bombers, rebirth may never come. For the indirect victims, and perhaps that includes us all, we’re a jumble of conflicting emotions.
Our eyes fill with tears of gratitude for those near and dear, and for our first responders, the marathon volunteers, ordinary people doing heroic things. The local news media were much better than usual, out-performing their national counterparts in accuracy and public service. Some I know worked around the clock to keep us informed. Sure, there were examples of going over the top, and they didn’t always get it right, but consider the circumstances.
There was an other-worldliness about yesterday. Security people for the Boston Symphony, for the first time I can recall, did bag checks as patrons entered the concert hall. Twelve-year old boys on an Arlington Youth Soccer team observed a minute of silence and presented flowers and a signed condolence card to the opposing team from Dorchester, a team that includes the older brother of assassinated Martin Richard. His mother remains head injured, and his little sister lost a leg in the blast.
Boston’s sports crowds were emotional, sang the National Anthem with unusual fervor, held up American flags, B strong and B Boston banners. At Fenway, Big Papi stepped to the microphone, and, in an unscripted moment, gave voice to our heartfelt pride in our city, prompting the chairman of the FCC to say he stood with Ortiz’ despite the f-bomb. Neil Diamond flew into town to sing Sweet Caroline in person, “reaching out, touching me, touching you.” And touched we were.
The hard work of bringing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to justice begins now. So, too, does finding out why it happened and what, if anything, could have prevented this tragedy. We are only beginning to wonder aloud why, when the FBI had its sights trained on Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 and investigated his alleged Islamic extremism, he was not on some meaningful watch list. Did he fall through the cracks? We want accountability. We want revenge. But we also want safety, civil liberties and well calibrated rule of law. Was Tamerlan named after Tamerlane, the terror-inspiring conqueror of Central Asia? How many home grown Tamerlans are out there? Is this the new normal?
Today though, it seems that tears are never far below the surface. So, too, is Boston’s pride, its courage, its gritty insistence that people who mess with us are not going to get away with it. As we felt about New Yorkers after 9/11, we are all Bostonians. And, as Mayor Menino said, we’ll emerge from this stronger and more determined than ever.
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