I was trying to blog every day. Then last week happened. Since then, I’ve been thinking about posting, but I couldn’t seem to find the right words, the right tone, the right thing to say. There is no right thing to say.
I was in my kitchen with my baby and my dog when I heard about Monday’s explosions. As with all tragedies, my first reaction was a mix of confusion and disbelief, followed by that cold drop of pressure from head to stomach: dread-panic-fear. A plane crash, a car accident, a terrorist attack–the world is suddenly reduced to pinpoints of light, and we map them instantly in our minds: my husband, my children, my parents, my sister, my brother, my friends, my colleagues–where are they?
So much has been said (some of it very well) about the events, and about Bostonian resilience. I won’t try to compete there. I will say simply that Boston is a small town with a big heart. Although I hate the accent and hate those goddamn one-way streets, I’m proud to be from here, proud to live here, and proud to raise my child here. I am humbled and grateful for the outpouring of love and aid we have received and continue to receive, but above all I hope that these tragic events do not beget more tragedy.
I was struck last week by the power of social media: while traditional news crews were all plugging relentlessly away, it was the tweeting and blogging that conveyed both the information and the sentiment required in the midst of fear and panic. Whether it is the breaking-news accounts from friends updating Facebook (“We hear gunshots–lots of them.” “We’re all ok here–family too.”), or the heartfelt personal stories peppering the blogosphere, there is something indescribably immediate about danger and grief documented by the masses. As has been so clearly demonstrated over the past few years, we have learned a new way to tell stories, in real time, and it is both wonderful and terrible.
Of course, there was horror there, as well. My Twitter feed lit up with hopeful and helpful updates, but also with threats: calls for violence, torture, and revenge.
In the middle of last week a young woman, carrying her infant, was assaulted in a Boston suburb. A man came up to her, cursed her, and punched her in the side before walking on, still yelling obscenities.
She was wearing a hijab. He was yelling “Fuck you, muslims! You are terrorists!”
How do you find compassion in the face of destruction, of hate and fear?
I am not a religious girl, for all my fascination with spiritual pursuits, but immediate tragedy will bring even the most committed atheist among us to her knees. If there is a lesson to be learned here, let it be in the immortal words of Frederick Buechner: “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
On Sunday we light candles at our little church–for joys and sorrows, for humorous anecdotes and heartfelt congratulations: it may be my favorite part. Last Sunday, a friend who teaches at Berklee and lives in Watertown got up to speak. She said that she’d spent all week wishing horrible things upon the bombers.
“But now that I know who they are–they are children, and members of our community. I cannot hate them. They could have been my students.”
Would that we all could feel that familiarity, that forgiveness.
Do not be afraid.