Apr 25, 2014

Boston Strong

There was an unusually grim faced gentleman across the street from me today in Boston as I (and he) waited for the 'Walk' sign. He caught my attention first with his grimacing face, second because he was wearing shorts on a day when the predicted high was just around freezing and third, because descending from his left shorts leg was a prosthetic limb.

Things shifted suddenly for me: his grimace seemed less from the cutting wind, more likely from from the socket blistered from a chafing prosthetic. I also Imagined that the defiance on his face seemed less for the obscene cold snap marring the long awaited spring shorts weather, more for onlookers like me wearing pity on our faces. Because this week, when we have just marked the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing, it's hard for me to imagine that he wasn't one of the innocents from the finish line.

I've refrained from blogging about this anniversary though I wrote about it at the time. Here. Partly because I imagined that anything I could say would either be trite or have already been said. But also because I don't think that crimes deserve memorializing. That seems to just validate and extends it's effects while spreading fear and alarmism. It's the same reason I pleaded for a cessation of media coverage of the Sandy Hook school shootings when it happened. It becomes a celebration, not a respectful memory, and for the acts of terrorism that all these tragedies represent - that's essentially enabling future repeats.

At the same time, there's much to be said for the morale building that can happen through memorializing. Memories of the victims are important to the healing of the communities they have left behind, but as important is celebrating the survivors. It makes the public consciousness skip over Hatred to land on values like Resilience and Hope. I loved all the shout-outs in the 'Boston Strong' theme. Whatever infamy Lance Armstrong wreaked on the annals of competitive bicyling, his legacy of solidarity against crushing grief is undoubtable in this coinage. 'Boston Strong' sums it up just right. Like the New Yorkers whose sense of safety were violated in the 9/11 attacks, Bostonians had mass terror visited on home turf in an unprecedented way. In times like this, rallying in defiance is probably the only way to emerge from the ashes. I'm uncomfortably aware too that for the hundreds of families physically affected, it's less of an intellectual exercise as they cope with the devastation visited upon them. All the rally cries in the world pale before the reality of unexpected and undeserved grief like that.

Anyhow, not for me, the reminiscences about where I was last year this time, how I felt and what i thought. It doesn't matter. All I took away from it last year was that nothing is for certain and that the value of good far outshines the value of evil. The first responders and incidental heroes, bystanders who didn't just stand by and the traumatized who took to running and the streets of Boston as soon as they could. 

If I thought about anything this week, a year after the bombing, it was the goodness we saw then and the strength we see now. This week has made me think more about the value of speaking up and communicating what I feel, because tomorrow may never come. This week showed me that life goes on and people grow stronger for the pain they experience, even as they are worn down by it. For the privileged amongst us who were unaffected by this and other tragedies, it's up to each of us to choose what we focus on - grief and terror or strength and Hope.

So for today's grim Bostonian at the crosswalk: I'm choosing to think that he lost a limb at last years marathon finish line but was grimacing today at the wind. That his defiance was at accepting his artificial limb and the Polar Vortex alike.

At any point in time, there are so many things that haunt our dreams and plague our minds: some are worthy of the distress they cause, others are imposters. As I cringed at my sinus headache (whipped up by the frigid wind) this morning, I was reminded that it was an imposter in the field of distress, especially when I passed the man striding on his steel knee. 

And I thought about Defiance and Resilience.

Boston Strong.

Talking about how some kids got in trouble on the playground this week...
Me: So do you and your friends ever get in trouble?
Oyon: Not hardly very often and sometimes.
Me: Uh, what?
Oyon: You know! We do sometimes but not ALL the time. 

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