It was bound to happen sooner or later. Indeed, it happened once before. I was in a Medieval/Renaissance music class on the other side of Boston when planes took off from Boston Logan Airport that would later be flown into the World Trade Center.
But that was different. Though Boston panicked and wept and lost, it wasn’t “our” tragedy. And we didn’t know then what we know now: that malice is always lurking, that safety is a myth, that terror is not an anomaly but something we’re always waiting for.
At moments like when I heard about the explosion and subsequent carnage at the finish line of the Boston Marathon I ask “how long O Lord?” How long until you return because we’re not getting it right.
The questions keep changing as tragedy becomes more frequent and Christ still does not return. I also ask How long until we get it right? Or at least until we stop getting it so wrong?
Since I’ve lived in Boston I’ve wondered when we would be attacked. I live blocks from the water – would it come from the bay? Or would it be downtown and drive us toward the sea? I didn’t think about this often, but I always felt as if it was coming. I never pictured the destruction, just the panic.
Yesterday it happened, but rather than feeling the peculiar relief of the shoe dropping at last, I feel a new pain stretching out in front of me. Rather than feeling as if something finally happened, I feel as if something has begun.
All day people contacted me to make sure I was ok – I was out of the city – and then asked if I knew anyone at the race. Of course I knew people there: runners, volunteers, spectators. As the reports rolled in of my friends being fine, I was only partially relieved. I knew people had died. Their families and friends didn’t get to feel relief. It didn’t matter that the victims were people I didn’t know
Today there is blood on my bus stop, the one I take to get back to my neighborhood from the library, the conservatory, the symphony, the mall. But on other days it is someone else’s bus stop, someone else’s city. I wonder how long, O lord, until we all realize that our pain is universal, until we realize that we must pay attention to violence and hate no matter where it occurs. How long until we care for each other enough?
Another question, the one that plagues me: How long until this breaks me? How long until I stop responding to terror with love? How long until I stop contorting my imagination to fathom the possibility of evil’s salvation, let go of my virtue and finally say “screw you, rot in hell”?
For now, I wait for answers to other questions, like who attacked us and why. I watch my adopted city rise up proud and caring on a new day. I see the pictures of our glorious city skyline, hear “For Boston”, read the Bernstein quote that I’m tired of having to turn to over and over. We will bounce back from this, shed the numbness and anger and continue to show the best of American city life. Pray for us, pray for my people, pray for the world.