I don’t really know what possessed me to do this. This is a food blog – one that I have neglected for months now – and we are blessedly unharmed after the unspeakable events of this afternoon. But in times when my brain is jumbled and I can’t make heads or tails of what’s going on, it helps to write it down to sort it out. And I’ve decided to publish those thoughts because today’s events happened in my backyard, in the city this food blog is about.
Maybe it’s irrational, but I feel so helpless as I sit holed up in my apartment for the ninth hour. In seeing coverage of similar tragic events in the past (how awful is it that the phrase similar events – plural – rolls off the tongue so easily?), I’ve always tried to keep the focus on those afflicted.
“I feel so terrible for them.” “We should say a prayer for those people.” “I can’t believe this happened, I wish I could do something to help the families”
Because nothing irks me more than seeing someone make another person’s personal hell about them. Feel bad, feel sad, feel scared and disenchanted with the world we live in. Fine. But the pain we all feel from the outside-looking-in cannot even compare to the all-encompassing pain of losing a loved one or having their life forever changed from the despicable ill-intent of others.
But today is different. Today I learned it’s not black and white. My prayers and thoughts are, first and foremost, with the victims of the Boston Marathon attack. But unlike “similar events” of the past, today I’m not an outsider looking in, and every replay of the footage threatens to unleash everything I’ve been too numb to acknowledge.
This morning was wonderful – I had Patriots Day off, so some girlfriends and I decided to start the day with mimosas, fruit, and a delicious assortment of pastries from Deluca’s and Wired Puppy. Around 1pm, we went to Globe on Boylston Street, where we split nachos, ordered salads (to reconcile the gluttony), and planned to mosey on over to the finish line to cheer on our friend who was running the Boston Marathon. We would probably elbow our way in front of Forum – it has the best view, and it’s where I watched the finishers last year, anyway. Unfortunately, our timing was a bit off. We started a little on the early side, and by around 2:30 we were feeling the effects of morning drinking and a sugar crash, and our friend was still about an hour away, so we decided to head home and nap. After saying our goodbyes, I went upstairs to the apartment I love so much. The one with the charming bay windows, in the heart of Back Bay, on the best block of Newbury Street (in our opinion), and right by the Boston Marathon finish line.
I walked in and barely had the chance to even flirt with the idea of sweatpants before I heard a huge blast. I ran to the window and saw people standing around, a little confused. Some people were running, but it’s Newbury Street and there were so many people. I barely had a chance to register the first blast before I heard the second one and felt the whole building shake. It felt and sounded like it was next door, and immediately following were screams of abject terror and a huge crowd of people running. It is exactly like what you see in the movies.
I’ve never heard a bomb. I knew these were bombs. I knew it in every way a person can know that kind of thing, but the reality that there were bombs going off was unthinkable. Did the stands collapse? Or the stage? Did someone set a record? But panic was already setting in because I knew.
Ryan was working, so I called him because that’s what I do when I have no idea what’s going on. We had about thirty seconds of frantic –
“WHAT HAPPENED WHAT HAPPENED??? ARE YOU OK??”
“STAY PUT! WHERE ARE YOU? DON’T LEAVE THE HOUSE!”
“People are running, I feel like I need to run away, what if there’s another one!”
And then we got disconnected. I frantically started texting and emailing, doing whatever I could to confirm that he was ok. Refusing to leave until I knew where he was, I opened the window and called down to people in the streets, who confirmed it was a bomb. A passing police officer told me to stay put. Ten minutes passed with no word from Ryan, while I watched streets full of people crying, screaming, and running. At one point I thought I saw some officials drag someone to the middle of the street. Looking back, I’m assuming the person was an injured bystander.
Finally Ryan threw the door open and I pretty much collapsed into his arms a sobbing mess, so thankful that he had not been affected by the blast (I still didn’t know at this point where the bombs were detonated, and he works in a high profile building). When our call dropped, he didn’t know that I wasn’t on the street and had the same fear as me, so he ran home to make sure I was safe. We turned on the news, and saw reports and rumors of bombs found in the JFK Library, Apple Store on Boylston (where I bought my iPhone), the glass tunnel connecting the Prudential building and Copley Mall (which Ryan ran across to get to me just moments before), and a nearby hotel facing our cross-street. We realized the second, deadliest blast went off at Forum, the restaurant directly behind our building and one of our favorite neighborhood go-to places. Everyone was telling us to stay put, and that staying home was safest – but what happens when your home is next to the most dangerous place in the city?
Ryan told me to take Maverick and lock myself in the bathroom, away from the windows. He put cushions up against the windows to guard us from a potential blast at the street level. After running downstairs to talk to a police officer about whether it would be possible to get our car and get the hell out (it wasn’t), he came and sat in there with us.
For the next two-and-a-half hours, we sat in our tiny, hideously decorated bathroom, responding to the influx of frantic check-ins from our families and friends. Thinking about their genuine concern brings a tear to my eye and humbles me to my very core. The phones were down, but Ryan and I were both texting and Facebooking throughout the entire ordeal with people who, after awhile, were clearly still talking to us because they wanted to know we were ok – for our sake and theirs. We are so thankful to have that kind of love and support in our lives, and there is no way to express that gratitude in a way that doesn’t cheapen the sentiment – but to all those people, please know how deeply and meaningfully we appreciated your care and concern. And that it continued even after you knew we were fine.
Finally, we emerged from our cave to watch the press conference (and to ease our aching backs). We remained seated behind the couch for good measure, and slowly settled back in. We returned the cushions to the couch and have spent the rest of the night in semi-darkness, lost in thought, breaking the silence to share musings with each other.
So that’s where I am now. This time last year, I was so excited to be living in such a great apartment in a prime location where I could watch the Boston Marathon finishers by simply walking downstairs and taking a left. When the race was over and Ryan came home from work, we sat in our bay window and watched the crazy drunks mingle with the willowy athletes proudly wearing their medals. While the sun went down, we made pizza together and caught up on Marathon footage.
This year, the only people on our streets are wearing vests and army suits. No one is celebrating.
I am not a victim of this senseless act of violence, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected me in a way others haven’t. I think about how close Ryan was to a bomb, and how easily the girls and I could have been standing in that area (especially if a friend hadn’t been parked on Dartmouth). I see pictures of the first bomb – on the block I walk down every single day to go to and from work. The Charlesmark Hotel, where we went with my sister and her family last summer. They have monthly wine nights and cocktail nights that I haven’t made it to, yet. Sugar Heaven with the funny plastic M&M guy outside, who had holes on the side they had to cover up with signs that said “This is not a trash can!” Every night around 8:30pm, the store employees would drag him back in by his little arms. The Marathon Sports, where I went to buy new tennis shoes when I got serious about running. The Lenscrafters where I bought the glasses I wear as I type this. Forum – great for drinks and a casual dinner, Starbucks – big, by Boston standards, Max Brenner – had great cocktails with friends there…the list goes on.
(Ryan sitting on the patio at Forum during one of our weeknight dinners out. He was eating deconstructed beef wellington and drinking a glass of red wine. As always, it was delicious and relaxing.)
I’m not a victim, but my home is a victim, and all these places that mark my happy memories are now marred with the blood of the injured and memories of the day that changed their lives for the worse. It’s personal, and it makes me sick to my stomach every time they replay that God-awful footage.
I’ve spent the day shaking, intermittently crying, and barricaded in my bathroom with my boyfriend and my cat (who we both agreed would NEVER be left behind). I’m absolutely terrified to take the T to work, and even more terrified to walk to that T stop, past the blown-out windows and stained pavement. Back Bay has always been the Barbie of Boston – cosmetic perfection, materialistic, a little superficial but nice enough that you overlook it, filthy rich, and always, above all, fun. I wonder how this area of the Back Bay will return to its former glory, full of tourists, ladies who lunch, shoppers, and Boston’s elite. Can it? And if it does, does that mean we’ve forgotten what happened here? How can an area like this one memorialize something so tragic and painful and still be that oasis of superficiality people need when they just want to have a good time?
I don’t know the answers. The rest of the world is moving on, and the country began returning to normal about three hours after the bombing. But don’t let that happen. Go hug your loved ones – for ten minutes, I faced the possibility I could have lost one of mine, and so many more people were not as fortunate. If you pray, say a prayer for the victims and their families. If you don’t pray, please send loving thoughts their way.
But if you made it this far, thank you for listening. I needed to get this off my chest.
If you or someone you know were personally affected by today’s senseless act of violence, please let us know how we can help.
Also, feel free to vent or share your own story below.
UPDATED: CLICK HERE for a full list of ways you can help. (Thanks, Boston.com!)