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The Boston Marathon tragedy: Boston’s legacy to a student

April 17, 2013
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Boston is the kind of city that grows on you after a while, but it kicks your ass in the beginning.

Boston is not the kind of town that welcomes you with open arms. It’s the kind of town that forces you to break down and if  you have tough skin, in the end, it makes you a stronger person. Each time a stranger pushes you out of the way on the T, you grind your teeth a little, but you persevere because it gives you the fortitude to grow with each shove and each grimace.

It’s a city of vagabonds. Artists flock to it; college students dominate it. It’s a transient town, full of out-of- towners.

For some, it might take a few months, for others it takes years of frigid winters to warm up to this small little city. Once you pass these tests, you begin to feel like you belong. Once you belong, you’re a hardened individual with a wise soul.

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Red Sox Opening Day 2011 standing on the bridge overlooking the Mass Pike.

When I first arrived in Boston in late August 2008 I was enamored with its appearance. To me, this glorious city is what American metropolises are supposed to look like. None of that palm tree garbage I grew up with and large parking lots. These trees with their vibrant red and orange leaves that make way for naked branches that make way for cherry blossoms–that shit was picturesque to me. Finally, the American Dream, and I had arrived.

And then Boston slaps that shit out of you and laughs while pointing its finger, mocking you because you had the audacity to think you fit it. And then you overcome it because you meet like-minded individuals and make unshakable friendships and you begin to expand your family away from family.

You take long walks that begin in Allston Rat City that lead you to Commonwealth avenue and its overabundance of Boston University students. You walk beneath the arches at the BU Central stop that lead to the BU Beach that lead to the Esplanade. You watch as people sunbathe on the banks of the Charles. Across the water’s surface you watch sail boats glide in the water and you might catch one of the crew teams from one of those small, insignificant Cambridge schools practicing.

Time passes by, but you don’t notice because everything you see captivates you. A short walk, one maybe two hours, and you’re in the heart of the city. You might decide to stop at Newbury street and enjoy a cup of J.P. Licks ice cream while gossiping with friends at the nearest coffee shop, watching as passersby go about their day. Or if you’re lucky, a group of Berklee College of Music students are serenading the entire block with their melodic voices and instruments.

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My friend Ronnie and I enchanted by the Boston Public Library in 2009.

You make your way up Boylston street. The Boston Public Library greets you and in that moment you’re certain books are created by some kind of God because surely anything that’s housed at that library must be sent from above. A 10-minute walk leads you to the Public Gardens, but everyone knows The Common is where the action is, so you continue there to watch a quick game of baseball or to just lay down for a quick nap on the grass. You’re drifting off into peaceful serenity while you peer upward, your eyes are glued to the blues skies. You watch the clouds drift across that deep blue. And all of a sudden, it dawns on you: I love Boston.

And in that moment you feel so fulfilled. Because you’ve accepted your circumstances and despite the ache you miss for those crappy palm trees, Boston, this hard-ass city has finally accepted you, too.

And you begin to collect memories, memories that you’ll play over and over in your head because you know your days in this small big city are numbered.

And its these memories that make you smile.

That first time you headed to Beacon street because there was a Marathon and apparently it engulfs the city. You even get a day off from school, so you take your tripod and camera and set up to get some B-roll of the action because at a journalism school, you always need B-roll. But before long, you’re holding on to that railing, screaming yourself hoarse as these people are using their super human strength to run for long distances. And you’re holding your breath because you’ve never seen anything quite like it.

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My roommate Miriam and I with the Citgo sign on Red Sox Opening Day 2011. No one knows why it’s there, but everyone loves it.

It’s a happy day. Patriot’s Day and Opening day at Fenway Park are the happiest days in Boston. No one is going to push you around on the T and no one is going to scowl at you. Everyone’s in a jovial mood.

Those are the things you think about on Patriot’s Day in Boston. That and the random Paul Revere horseback rider that’s  galloping down Harvard avenue yelling, “The British are coming,” as you wash down a doughnut with some Dunkin coffee.

Fast-forward to Monday, April 15, 2013. More than two years have passed since you’ve been in the northeast–far too long.

You’re an adult working a job that Boston–and South Florida newsrooms–prepared you for.

And you read a headline on your phone and your breath catches. And everything seems to stop. That press conference you’re supposed to be paying attention to ceases to exist.

You make it home to watch the video of an explosion on Boylston street, the blast pummels survivors into different directions and there’s blood smeared across the sidewalks you walked on. And you cry. You cry for those that died. You cry because you can’t find significance in what you’re seeing. There’s no message. There’s no stamp of approval from an outside organization, so you can rationalize the reasons someone might want to cause others such hurt.

And after reading every headline there is to read, your own memories of Marathon Monday begin to fade. They are replaced with the white smoke and the image of a first responder wheeling away a survivor whose legs have been completely severed. And that photo is emblazoned in your mind.

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My friend Binsen and I at the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill.

But, then you shake it out because you are a hardened individual because Boston shaped you that way. And then you begin to smile, in between tears, because those memories are still alive. Those memories of walks on Landowne street when Fenway Park lets lose its rabid fans are still vivid and easy to recall.

You still remember those makeshift Nike posters you used to cheer on the runners in 2009. It’s of no consequence, but you still remember them and that’s the best part.

You watch the press conferences on CNN and you laugh because everyone speaking has the most perfect Boston accent.

And then you realize that everything is going to be OK because it’s Boston. It’s a tough town, full of tough people. And no one can take away your memories and experience.

And it’s going to remain a beacon of freedom and it’s going to continue educating many more generations to come and the world will be better for it.

Consider donating some funds to those who have been affected: http://onefundboston.com/

And consider visiting Boston. My words don’t do this city justice.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2013 10:45 pm

    As a birth citizen of the city of New York, your rival is the City of Boston and you are taught that from the beginning. You look back and you see it is pretty much the same. The same mentally and most together people in the world. When the events of September 11 occurred, all of NY and the world united. This April a tragedy happened, and the biggest rivals become the greatest of friends because through a tragedy new yorkers and bostonians work together to figure things out and make something happen, there is no person more tough than a new yorker and bostonian and faced with tragedy we stand together and work for the better!

    • April 18, 2013 10:53 pm

      Yep, you’re right. I think Jon Stewart said it best in one of the episodes this week. He called it a “sibling rivalry.” But yeah, both cities are awesome. :)

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