Marathon Monday — Patriot’s Day is a time when Boston’s streets are full of people. Commonwealth Avenue, the street I live on, is splashed with color and celebrations. The Boston Marathon, is the world’s oldest marathon and attracts about 500,000 spectators. It’s a holiday, and for this college town, that means a day away from the usual stress of life. The weather was exceptionally beautiful for a change – the sun shining on a clear spring day,
Copley Square, the finish line for the Boston Marathon and the heart of downtown Boston, was abuzz with festivity.
About 4,500 other could not finish.
This afternoon, the city of Boston was struck by two bomb blasts at about 3pm. Close to the historic Boston Public Library and in the tourist hub of Copley Square, the explosion occurred within ten seconds of each other.
The city was in shock. I could hear loud sirens and emergency vehicles. Panicked voices and phone calls filled the air. There were mixed reports. It couldn’t be true.
“Just heard the news of blasts in ….” – was the first text I read. My immediate reaction was the safety of everyone back home in Islamabad. Then I read the whole thing “blasts in Boston.”
The city I’ve known as home for the last four years too was struck with panic. It was eerily reminiscent of the panicked responses that I had become too familiar with in Pakistan. Another bomb blast. Another casualty. Another death. Until it all becomes a headline, a statistic, a fact. Your idea of normal changes. You start to identify areas that are not safe. Life goes on, you think.
They say you become numb to tragedy. A part of you dies every time you hear the news. Your brain wants to block it all out; to pretend that everything’s okay. You still want to hold on to a semblance of normality.
2 dead, At Least 102 Hurt in Explosions At Boston Marathon Finish Line” – the headline reads. An 8 year old girl is among those killed
And then there is the cacophony of voices; the blame games. Everyone playing detective, the “whodunnit,” before the “what was it.” Everyone has an opinion, fact or fiction.
Newspapers like the New York Post were quick to create panic. Using yellow journalistic tactics to report unverified information, they managed to spread rumors among an already panicked town. In the mess, hate-mongers too played their role. “Please don’t be a Muslim” became a ubiquitous fear. In the confusion, President Obama urged to remain calm: “we still do not know who did this or why and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all of the facts.”
But as much as tragedy can create panic, it can also bring out the best in people. There were stories of kindness.
At this time 3,805 generous people have offered their place to people displaced because of the blasts, and more are responding. After calls for blood donations, hundreds of people rushed to donate, and are still donating at various locations, including http://www.redcrossblood.org/ma . Google too was quick to respond with a person finder, putting people in touch with safety hotlines.
I’m worried for my city, and my heart goes out to each and everyone affected by the blasts. And to all the haters, I say “wrong is wrong. Let people grieve what is wrong, no matter how big or small.”
Prayers for Boston.