Cambridge is under lockdown right now. My apartment, usually so spacious and bright is constricting, suffocating, close. It’s been four days since the bombings. Four days since I rode my bike over the Mass. Ave. bridge, parked myself close to the race’s end and waited for the first of the wheelchair racers to streak by, sweating, straining, defiant.
To get down to the facts, this is not the first terrorist attack I have been in. This is not the first time that I have experienced the closeness, the despair of lockdown. Or the rumors and fear that come (and stay) long after an attack has occurred.
Columbine commenced my freshman year of high school. My senior year in a New York City high school was ushered in by the deadliest foreign attack on American soil. In the spring of my first year of College we entered what would become one of the most protracted and least effective of wars, in Iraq. I guess like most other generations have said, and will say again, it was a hard time to be growing up.
It was hard to be a New Yorker on September 11th, but what was worse was being a New Yorker in the years that came afterward. The terror alerts, the military, the dogs, all stayed long after the dust had settled over lower Manhattan, and the debris had been cleared away from Ground Zero. It was hard to leave New York less than a year after the towers went down. In some ways I felt like I was forsaking my city by moving elsewhere.
That elsewhere was New England. Idyllic, pastoral, Puritan. For six years I lived in a middle sized city, content with the regular crime that comes from post-industrialization and urban decay. Gangs and drugs and armed robbery were far more comforting than shadow plots, suitcase nukes, and training camps halfway across the world.
But as time passed I think we all forgot just a little what it feels like to be victims of such nebulous and unexplainable crimes. There were near misses of course, like the Times Sq. car bomb, and hits such as London in 2005. And just because we were able to breathe a long (if somewhat raspy) sigh of relief doesn’t mean that homegrown terror and atrocity took a break around the world. In truth, we have had it lucky, we aren’t Syria, we aren’t Libya, we aren’t Pakistan. We are, in comparison, safe.
Of course Monday shattered, as the news outlets like to say, that sense of security. That sense that 9/11 and Newtown and Oklahoma City and WTC 1991 and Columbine and dozens of other similar crimes were aberrations. The unusual. The unlikely. More and more we are living in spaces where these attacks are becoming the norm. More and more our sighs of raspy relief are shortening, quickening, morphing into uncertain pauses between gasps.
I don’t know what to say about all this. I am both reliant on the clichéd expressions and rampant speculation of the media and appalled by it. I have read the articles, listened to the near-misses and the hits and most of what I feel right now is numb. Numb and afraid. My mind is a city filled with suspect packages, threatening to explode at any moment. Find order, create pattern, fail, try again. Terrorism isn’t logical, don’t let them win. Return to your lives. Live normally. Be resilient. Don’t fuck with us. You picked the wrong city. We’ll get you. Boston Strong. Home safe. We’re all OK.
Click here for the rest of Giaimo’s story.
Following the second sound, a discussion ensued about what would cause such a sound. When my fiancee stated it sounded like a bomb, I responded that if it were a bomb, we would hear sirens. As if prophetic, the city burst to life with the sounds of fire, police, and ambulance sirens. We took off running for our place in the South End to find out what happened. Seeing the news come on, we immediately rushed to contact our friend whom we’d left at the sight. Getting no response, we ran from out place back towards the finish line, hoping and praying. Luckily, our friend had walked into a store across Boylston to charge her phone and was safe. Others, we soon found out were not so lucky.
I want to thank everyone who showed such courage and bravery in the face of such horror. Boston is my adopted home, and I have never been more proud to live here with such an amazing group of people. Thank you! I plan on being out there next year to root on the runners again, and I hope the crowd is even bigger to show these horrible people that Bostonians and Americans will never back down from terror."