Obviously our trip to Boston was planned way before the tragic events occurred at the marathon. With that said, I guess some might shake their heads about having a vacation planned for so long only to have the city turned upside down the week before they were to set foot on its soil. Most people, myself included, are not like that. When Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev inflicted harm on hundreds of innocent people I really didn’t even think about my impending trip to Boston. I was too busy following detail by detail the developments of the situation, looking upon it as a concerned American rather than a butt-hurt traveler.
It was not until after the death and capture of the mad men that I started to think a little bit about what I would see and feel when I went to New England. As the Boston community made it plainly clear that they would not let terrorism dictate day-to-day life I knew all the plans we had for the trip would still go on accordingly. However, I knew the atmosphere and attitude would be different. All it took was walking through the airport to immediately feel this change of feeling in the air. Each time we inched closer to the city, whether it be by taxi, public transportation, or foot, the feeling got stronger and stronger. Finally, this gripping sensation that hit me in the heart reached a climax when during the morning of our first full day in town we made it to the Boston Marathon memorial and the site of the attack. This is what it was like:
We first visited the memorial for the Boston Marathon victims. Located in an area called Copley Square, the memorial is a couple blocks west of where the bombings took place. Sometimes you don’t need large and extravagant memorials to make an impact. For right now, this is certainly the case in Boston. The memorial was a modest sized space, enclosed on three of its four sides by bicycle racks. Yes, very temporary and very simple. The focal point of the space was located right in the middle of the area where four white crosses depicted the names of the four people who lost their lives during the ordeal (the three at the bombing site plus the slain MIT police officer). Overflowing in front of the crosses were flowers, plants, stuffed animals, and cards. To the left and right of the main shrine were giant palettes of paper where anyone could go up and write a note or prayer in honor of the victims and the city. Taking up the rest of the space and lining the inside of the bicycle racks were various displays of running shoes, hats, flowers, American flags, and notes and cards written from across the nation.
We arrived at the memorial during the morning hours and while it was busy, you could move around freely. Many people would kneel where the crosses were and say a prayer. Many utilized the paper palettes. It was very quiet. There were lots of tears.
When we were there, the national media was still reporting live from Boston. Lining the sidewalks of Copley Square right in front of the memorial were TV trucks from every single news organization in the country. Ashleigh Banfield from CNN did a live shot right in front of us. Reporters and crews from NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News all stood outside their trucks shooting footage. All of the local Boston affiliates had set up shop too. To use the old adage, it was a media circus.
But cutting through the media craziness and the hysteria of the newly opened memorial was a scene that I will always remember. A bus pulled up from Annapolis, Maryland. The side of the bus read “U.S. Naval Academy.” The doors opened and about 30 midshipmen got out in full uniform and marched towards the memorial. They quietly entered the memorial and solemnly paid their respects with all the other civilians. They then quietly exited the memorial, declined all requests for interviews from the national media, and marched back to their bus. It was such a touching tribute of respect.
We then moved down to the location of where the actual bombs went off on Boylston Street. The Marathon Shop, located right where the first bomb went off, was open for the first day since the attack. A large line formed to purchase marathon gear. Mike braved the long wait and bought a marathon t-shirt. I stood outside the store, observing people walking by and taking pictures of the street and businesses. Several windows were boarded up, new glass not yet installed from where the blasts blew out the old glass. Other than that, you probably would not be able to tell that the area had been the target of a savage attack a week earlier.
I walked away from the memorial and bombing site feeling fortunate that I got to see it but angry that insane people would do such destructive things to innocent people. As I was reminded when I visited Ground Zero in New York and again just this past week, our innocent brothers and sisters die for no reason other than that there are people out there who hate us. It is a sobering reality and we all got to be thankful that we continue to live in this amazing country and have not had to pay the ultimate price that four others had to 16 days ago. We are very lucky. Don’t Blink.