Tag Archives: Boston Marathon

This Week Sort of Felt Like the World was Ending

20 Apr

Important!  This piece is me working out some of my conflicting thoughts about what has transpired over the last week.  I hope in reading this, people understand that I feel relieved that the suspects have both been taken off the streets, although I do regret that one of them was killed.  I feel relieved, but I do not feel happy, or celebratory.  What they are accused of having done was undoubtedly horrific.  But I am worried that, once again, we as a society are going to miss a very crucial moment in political time to ask hard questions about why this has happened.  Please keep that in mind as you read.

This has been a really awful and confusing week and I feel, to put it simply, quite conflicted.  When those bombs went off in Boston on Monday I, along with everyone else, was totally shocked.  I had come home from a run to text messages from friends asking me if I knew and if I was alright – some people thought it possible that I was there.  I spent the next two hours in my sweaty running clothes glued to a live stream, hungering for any information at all that would give a clue of who could have done something so horrible, and why.  I know I was not alone.  This week has seen me scouring news sources, reading every single update about the explosion, the victims, the hunt for clues as to the identities of the perpetrators.  I knew that, in a busy shopping district dotted with high-end stores, there would undoubtedly be images captured on video, it was only a matter of time.  And then the time came.

To see the images of these men who were suspected to have out carried out this gruesome attack was mixed.  I was glad that some headway had been made, that there were suspects in mind but at the same time I was sad.  I knew that the attack had happened, I knew that nothing I could think or say could take us back to Monday morning, to a time when these men could have been thwarted or changed their minds.  But seeing them and knowing full well that if they were caught alive their lives would be ruined, along with the lives of so many that were ruined on Monday, made me think:  another two casualties.  Intellectually, I knew it was too late and they would face justice, as they should.  But as a human being, I couldn’t help but think about what it was that inspired them, and specifically, what flipped the younger brother who, by all accounts, had always seemed a good kid.  I felt sad that we, the inhabitants of the world, lost him to this evil.

Thursday was a particularly hard night for all of us, I think.  Information was coming out, but haltingly.  Barely anyone was covering the shooting at MIT.  No one was saying whether or not it was connected to the Monday bombing.  It really felt like, combined with the failure of the background check bill in the Senate and the plant explosion in Texas, the world was ending.  Nothing made any sense.  Everything, everywhere seemed completely out of control.  I waited with baited breath for the next thing to happen, for the next report to come out, for it to be in New York, or DC, for it to be something big.  Thankfully, the thing I was waiting for never happened, it never came.

And then Friday. I spent the day glancing at my Twitter feed, checking the New York Times website, looking up at CNN at work until the second brother, a 19-year-old kid, was found hiding in a boat in someones backyard.  The whole city had been shut down, militarized, and there he was, in a boat on the grass.  And now we’re safe.

But I wonder, are we really? When I wrote my thoughts about Boston on Tuesday, I wondered, among other things, about what sort of security implications the bombing would have for marathons, the spectators and the runners, going forward.  Now that one bother is dead and the other is in custody, now that the imminent threat is gone, I am more worried than ever before.  We have a moment right now where everyone is listening, both domestically and internationally.  We have a moment, right now, where we can have a really serious conversation about why this happened and I don’t just mean why the brothers decided to do what they did I mean why, in a bigger context, what sort of social, economic, political, racial, historical factors might have played a role.  President Obama, in his statement after the younger brother was captured, asked

“Why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”

It’s a good question.  It’s a big question, and important one.  Probably bigger and more important than most people think at first.  What is it that makes people like the Tsarnaev brothers, like Major Nidal Malik Hasan of Ford Hood, like Najibullah Zazi who planned the failed 2009 attack on the New York City subway system go from seemingly normal, adjusted people to not? At some point we have to stop pointing the finger at them, at Islam, at whatever.  At some point we have to turn the mirror on ourselves.

Think about Sunil Tripathi, the missing Brown student, who was at first thought to be one of the bombers, largely thanks to Reddit.  And then think of Salah Eddine Barhoum who was questioned soon after the bombings.  I can’t imagine the kind of impact it must have on a young person’s life to have their face wrongly associated with such an awful event.  And the impact it has on other young people of color who see this unfolding before their eyes and realize that could have been them, they could have been accused.  I doubt it makes a lot of people feel terribly American.  I doubt it makes them happy or feel safe.

And then there’s this increased use of the suspension of Miranda rights, thanks in large part to the Obama administration, that has been supported by many of the same senators who voted no on the background check bill.

So as I said, I feel conflicted.  I want to know why these brothers did what they did, too.  I want to have some answers.  But I also want to have some harder conversations and I’m really afraid that, once again, we will miss the boat.

To Boston from a Runner

16 Apr

I am a runner.

It has taken me a really long time to say that.  I always thought that runners were the people faster than me, who ran more than me.  I thought they were people who made a living off of it or who at least won an award here and there.  But yesterday, after coming back from a run, I spent two hours in my sweaty clothes, glued to a livestream on my computer and reaching out to everyone I know who lives in Boston or has family there.  I fielded text messages from people asking if I knew, hoping I wasn’t in the race.  This is not to say that I have more of a right to be devastated about what happened at the finish line of one of the most celebrated marathons in the world.  It is just to say that for a second I thought, god, what if I was there.

My first thought when looking at the video was about the time on the finishing clock.  It read 4:09 when the first bomb went off.  Anyone who has run a marathon knows that around the 4 hour mark, plus and minus about 15-20 minutes, is when most people finish.  It is when the road is especially crowded; when runners are especially focused and fading; when spectators are especially excited, scanning the thousands of finishers for their friends and loved ones.  It was, in that way, a perfect attack.  It hit when emotions were at their peak, when the potential for casualties was highest.

So now I am reminded once again that we live in what some call a “post-9/11 world” and the marathon is the latest casualty.  Security will be tighter, I would imagine.  Will they monitor our bags more closely?  Will we have to take off our shoes when we enter the corrals lest we smuggle in an explosive?  Will spectators have to go through metal detectors?  The magic, I am afraid, will be gone.

Marathon Day in New York City is like a holiday for me.  I wake up early, I rush to my corner, I jump up and down to keep warm while I wait to be amazed by the elite runners and the tens of thousands that come after them.  I stand there for hours and I cheer until my hands hurt from clapping and my voice hurts from screaming.  It’s a day when people achieve a seemingly impossible distance.  When camaraderie is built between people who have never before met and who will likely never meet again.  It is a day when everyone gets to prove to themselves that all the work they did — those early mornings, those painful miles, those track workouts and hill repeats — was all worth it.  Now the beauty of it, the innocence of it, the simplicity of it, will forever be tainted.

We now live in a world where it seems unreasonable to not have escape roots for possible bombings at all major events.  To not have armed guards at entrances to schools and stadiums.  Maybe some of you think the way we act internationally made this inevitable.  Maybe you think our grief over Boston, over all the people maimed, scarred and killed, is hypocritical because we don’t pay that much attention to the scores of innocent people killed by the United States every year.  And you know what, you are partially right.  Our country is in the wrong a lot.  But the thing is, it is unreasonable to expect people not to be devastated and scared by this.  The point is, I think, that all lives are of equal value.  That does not mean we should feel less compassion for people killed for no reason in Boston because our government regularly and needlessly kills people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria.  It means we should feel more compassion for those killed abroad because we know what senseless violence feels like now.  Again.  We know what it is to be confused and petrified and angry.

So, I am a runner.  And I will run again tomorrow.  And I will be out there cheering the marathoners on come November here in New York and I will qualify, and run, the Boston Marathon.  Because that’s what runners do, we keep right on running.  And that’s what people do, we keep going on.

So all my love to Boston.  To the runners, the spectators, the families, friends, loved ones of all those impacted.  You are in my thoughts.  You will be on my mind through all the many miles I will run this spring.  And hopefully I will be there cheering or running sometime soon.