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That Was the Week That Wasn't

Blogging was impossible last week. As were most things.

I live and work about 18 miles from Boston. Last Monday--Patriot's Day here in Massachusetts--I spent working on taxes. I felt relieved that, because Monday was a state holiday, we had an extra day to file. When I first moved to Massachusetts almost 20 years ago, my impression of Patriot's Day was that it was solely for the purpose of staging the Boston Marathon. It took me a few years to understand that the holiday had historical significance.

I live and work in Natick--or miles 8 through 11 on the marathon route. The marathon course runs right through Natick Center, about 2 miles north of my house. In 1996, I ran the Boston Marathon (it was the 100th running of the marathon and the first year the Boston Athletic Association allowed non-qualifying runners to enter). It gave me a birds-eye-view of the many house parties and celebrations hosted by those living and working along the route for this beloved annual event.

Sometime during the afternoon, the news broke of the bombings. I didn't pay attention until out-of-town friends and family started contacting me to make sure I was okay. Coincidentally, this was the first year in a while that I didn't know anyone running the marathon.

The site of the bombings was all too familiar to me. In fact, I was there just four days earlier. My first reaction was sorrow for those injured and killed. As a former marathoner, I also identified with the runners who were stopped en route and couldn't finish. I also felt for this city, which as an ex-New Yorker, I have come to call home. Hardly the scale of 9/11, yet an attack on the city nonetheless.

As the week wore on, it was hard not to be consumed by the news reporting. When the FBI released footage of Suspects 1 and 2, I could barely focus on little else. What struck me so poignantly was how normal these young men looked. Suspect 2 could easily pass for one of my 20-year-old son's friends with the standard headgear of the baseball cap worn backwards. I found myself doubting my certainty that Suspect 2 was no one I knew.

We were awakened early Friday morning by phone calls cancelling morning appointments. The city and its surroundings were on lockdown. I could barely do anything but watch the news and wait. It confounded me that others could go about their day as if everything were normal. All I could think about was the manhunt.

Now that it's all over, Boston is returning to its new normal. I feel more vulnerable; more sensitized to public safety. I feel for the bombing victims who must now adjust to their new normal--some learning to negotiate their daily lives without limbs; others without children. I'm grateful for the medical care provided in Boston that saved so many victims, and for the law enforcement personnel that resolved the bombing so swiftly. But I must confess that I also feel for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. So close in age to my son, he is still an impressionable adolescent, still experimenting to discover his true self. An immigrant in a foreign culture, trying to navigate this transition while also navigating the transition to adulthood with only an older, albeit radicalized, brother as the only connection to his roots, Tsarnaev could have, I am tempted to believe--as a mother and once adolescent--been led astray.

As we recover and once again adjust to a new normal, I am comforted by a prayer written by Rabbi Naomi Levy which includes the following verse:
We will not let this tragedy twist our spirits     
We choose hope over fear.
We are resilient, we are strong
We are one nation under God
We will come together, hand in hand
We will rebuild.