In the High Peaks

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What Happens When You Call Boston Home

While I blithely wrote yesterday's entry, I had no idea that a terrorist attack had occurred in the square of Boston that I have visited more than any other. On the way home from the college, I was listening to the Carole King memoir rather than the radio and Ken was working. When Ken and I turned on the television at 7pm, we were shocked and horrified to discover the loss of life and crippling injuries suffered by Marathon watchers closest to the explosions. We immediately emailed close friends who live within blocks of the site. I also emailed a young friend who habitually hangs out at the finish line with his friends. As far as we know, everyone we contacted is safe but terribly shaken. We feel so helpless to aid the people most affected by the attack.

As a number of regular readers know, I lived my entire life until 2005 in the immediate Boston area and Ken has ever since his college days. Ken was a software analyst for The Boston Globe newspaper for 20 years and spent more than a dozen Marathon Mondays with co-workers gathering running times from the athletic association that organizes the Boston Marathon. They all hovered over their computers in a building very close to one of the explosion sites, collecting data as the 20,000+ runners made it across the finish line. The Boston Globe prides itself on being able to publish running times in Tuesday's paper every year without fail.

As for me, I made a point of never being in Boston on Patriot's Day. Never. However, because one of the nation's four best research libraries and the oldest public library in the nation is right in the middle of Copley Square, I was a regular visitor, almost always for the purpose of conducting research for one of my books or articles. The Starbucks store across Boylston St. closest to where one of the blasts occurred is a place where I have consumed hundreds of cups of coffee over my years as a writer.

You may wonder why I'm going on about our connections to Copley Square. Home matters. Place matters. Ken and I thought we understood how New Yorkers felt after 9/11. We empathized as did millions of people all over the world. But when a terrorist attack strikes a place you have always thought of as home, as your city, the assault feels very different. I suppose I feel angrier at this attack than at others, but most of all, we feel ruthlessly violated and vulnerable.


  1. I know I felt much the same when Glasgow Airport was attacked by the would-be bombers - what a nerve! I thought, but luckily they weren't successful. The Boston bombings were horrifying.
    It seems to me that people from Boston have a fierce love for the city, it makes me want to visit it, if only I didn't have to fly there.
    I'm wondering why you avoided Boston on Patriot's Day. Do explain please! Is it just too crowded, or triumphalist or what?

  2. Katrina,
    The UK has had so many grotesquely horrible terrorist bombings that I can see why any Brit or Scot would want to pooh-pooh our hysteria over the things.

    I don't recall the Glasgow Airport incident, though I'm glad the terrorists failed. Unnerving!

    About that fierce love of Boston: Yes, it's a fact. It's a beautiful city with a long, fascinating history that's representative of every struggle the nation has faced. Boston is also a fun city, with lots of great seafood restaurants, museums, parks, and historic sites. If you are ever tempted to go, please do let me know! I could assist as your tour guide.

    About Patriot's Day: Boston is crazily crowded on that day. Usually the Red Sox are playing at Fenway Park (always causes crowds and horrendous traffic) and the Boston Marathon draws tens of thousands of runners and their families and then the spectators. A good day to stay home in the neighborhood! That's what I always did when Ken was doing his bit for the Marathon cause.