Some blog posts you just don’t want to write, and this is one of them. I’m thankful to be writing it, that I’m able, and that for us, it all turned out okay. “Okay” is such a relative word, but it works.
Yesterday I took my almost-4-year old and 7 month old to Natick with some friends to watch the runners. A friend of mine from high school was running, and I thought it would be fun for Leo, and also get him used to a race because I am training for the Boston Run to Remember in May. We had a great time watching the runners, and Leo thought giving them high fives was the best. He was very excited to have a one on one trip with mama to the finish line to go see more runners and see them “win the race.”
Here are some of our Natick photos:
After leaving Natick, we dropped my daughter and our car off in Kendall Square with my husband, and Leo and I walked over the Mass Ave bridge towards Boylston. The magnolias on Comm Ave were fantastic. We found a great spot right near the corner of Boylston and Gloucester St. where we could see the 26 mile marker and hang out the sign we had made.
Then the first explosion happened. The crowd became silent. Leo was in his stroller, and I turned him away from where the sound had come from. The cop standing in front of the barrier put his hand on his gun and stood his ground.
People milled for a few seconds, confused, before the second explosion. We felt the wave of the blast and smelled the smoke. Someone yelled, “they blew up a building!,” and as the crowd began to scream and run, I ran, too, pushing Leo in the stroller.
I didn’t know if there was another, perhaps closer, blast about to happen. I knew that potentially more people would be heading our way, and I didn’t want to be on Boylston St. I saw a nondescript door leading to businesses upstairs over Boylston, (I believe it was 883 Boylston St.), and headed for it. Other spectators dove into restaurants, but I didn’t want to be near any glass. I told Leo that we were going to find a hiding spot. I managed to text my husband and my brother that we were okay.
In the hallway, it was quiet, and I couldn’t get a signal on my phone to figure out what was happening. At the back of the building I peeked out and saw that there was a loading dock down some stairs.
Although I probably could have hefted the stroller and Leo, I wanted to keep him as close to me as possible so that if there was another blast I could shield him. Or, more generally, I just wanted to have his hand in mine. He kept saying, “that was a loud noise, mama,” and that there was a monster in the ground “firing” at people.
We left the stroller in the hallway and I walked with Leo into the alley behind Boylston. I took a picture when we emerged in case I forgot what building we had come from, hoping that my phone would geotag the photo so I could remember the location, or that the scenery would help me find it again.
Outside people were running and crying. I managed to get a call through to my husband. I told him we were going to cross the Mass Ave bridge, and after a minute the phone service cut out.
When I got to Mass Ave I was not comfortable with how many people were going over the bridge, and so I decided to continue down to Bay State Road towards the BU History department, where maybe I could find a phone and call my husband.
Along the way, Leo told everyone we passed that there was a loud noise. But he kept walking.
We went in to 226 Bay State Road and took a break in the seminar room, had some water, and went pee (in a toilet, not in the seminar room).
Back outside we continued along Bay State Road, and Leo declared he wanted to walk by the river. We went over the pedestrian bridge to the bike path. As we approached the BU bridge I got cell service back (along with a deluge of text messages). I told my husband that we were headed toward the River Street bridge and that we would meet him on River towards Central Square.
Leo began to tire a bit and so I carried him intermittently. When we crossed to the Cambridge side of River Street he wanted to walk again so he could look for his Dad. We finally reached him and my daughter. In the car I began to feel the physical effects of our walk as well as the shock. I talked to my Dad, who relayed the details of what had happened as they were being reported then. At home, I was finally able to talk to my mom, who had been in an appointment.
Later that night I scrawled off a note to my online class students that I might be a bit delayed in responding to emails, or in grading their papers. Both their class and my Honors class are discussing World War II this week. Today’s class is on the home front, and in this discussion I use some personal letters from my family to help us think about the experience of the war and to introduce the idea of how we create historical memory. I am so happy to be discussing this today.
I was pretty tired and perhaps a bit delirious when I wrote this to my online students: “There are many sad and scary stories in history, but if we look with an educated eye history can also teach us about humanity and the beauty, joy, and fellowship that comes with the human experience. History helps connect us.”
I’m grateful for my family and to live in a city and country that I love, to be a historian and to have a job that I love.
Words are not flowing so easily today, but I felt I should get this out. I’m thankful that Leo and I were not closer, but so incredibly sad and so very angry that others were not as lucky as us.
I’m going to go do some data entry. Or something.