Boston, One Year Later (2014)

There have been and will continue to be many things written about tomorrow’s one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. Earlier today, The Boston Globe received a Pulitzer Prize for its breaking news reporting of the tragedy.

I’m not sure what, if anything, has changed since 4/15/2013. The image of smoke covering Old South Church is as clear to me today as it was on that breezy April afternoon. In some ways it is clearer, since at the time, I didn’t know what was going on. Being between two bombs was a very strange experience — this much is probably obvious. My sense of security and safety vanished in the instant. I expected bombs to continue exploding all around us.

Loud sirens and noises startle me more than before. People behaving oddly on the train, which happens more often than you’d think, are suspect. I am more aware of who is walking behind me at any given moment. I cannot help this.

I think about the randomness of location and how it determined who was spared, injured and how badly. My mother was responsible for our location, 93 footsteps from the finish line. She wavered between two spots, both closer to each of the bombs, ultimately deciding on a place that kept us out of harm’s way. She recalls feeling small pushes that day, causing her to keep moving until settling on the corner of Exeter and Boylston Streets. We escaped the route down Exeter and found safety in the seconds after the bombings. It was like a movie, but it wasn’t. I will be forever grateful.

The fragility of that following warm week in April felt like driving home after a car accident. Tense and thankful and vigilantly aware of how close to danger you were. How close you always are but manage to forget.

“Life changes in the instant,” wrote literary journalist Joan Didion. I am beginning to understand what she meant.

I think about the quickness of change for those who are recovering from physical and emotional trauma and who have lost loved ones. How it could have been any one of us. I am blessed that the images imprinted in my mind are not of people or of carnage across a familiar street. Those are images I have from photos, not experience. I will never know why.

Life has gone back to normal for many people, myself included. I still walk the city whenever I can. I gaze admiringly at the historic, haughty brownstones on Comm. Ave., the glimpse of the lights over Fenway Park on my walk home, the Citgo sign viewable from so many points in the city.

A year later, I am not afraid. I breathe in the city that I adore.

I have been reading nearly every news story that has been published about the bombings, the bombers, the emergency response, etc. Earlier this year, when I read that the living bomber would face the death penalty if convicted, it didn’t mean anything to me. I don’t know why.

What I do know is the range of emotions a person can feel in one day. Excitement, freedom, happiness. Confusion, anxiety, fear. Anger, gratitude, exhaustion.

93 steps. Small pushes that saved us.

I continue to be in awe of the beauty around me every day, grateful for quiet moments. I am also more aware of impermanence and the potential for life to change in the instant.

I look forward to celebrations of the city in all shapes and sizes tomorrow, including at the hospital where I am lucky to work. There is much love and light in the world on which to focus. For this, too, I am grateful.