Yesterday I was in the middle of writing a post about our trip to NYC when the news about the Boston Marathon came on the radio. There isn’t anything I can say that hasn’t already been said better by Patton Oswald or Mr. Rogers. But I can’t just post more of my self involved dreck without acknowledging the attack.

It is completely insufficient but to every person who was affected I am so very sorry. My heart aches for you.

A thought occurred to me yesterday. This is going to sound nuts, but I immediately hoped that Boston has some kind of emergency like the Blackout of ’03 in the next year or so. Now hear me out. I don’t want Boston saddled with an additional financial burden, I certainly don’t want anyone else to lose their life, but I do want the collective city’s faith in humanity restored.  It won’t heal the people who are directly involved, the injured or those who have lost a loved one, but everyone else? It might help a great deal.

My memories of the NYC blackout are ones of gratefulness. Ok, also overwhelming physical discomfort because it was hot as Hades but the gratefulness trumps all else. September 11th was a day of horror and terror, I don’t think it is hyperbolic to say that it changed me. And for the first few minutes of the blackout those feelings came roaring back. I was at work in a professional shared kitchen in the basement of a building in Soho. The building was a short block deep and our space was farthest from the stairs to the ground floor. When the chef of the space next to ours started screaming “We are all going to die!” I believed him. But we used our cell phones for a little light and traveled across that block of blackness to the stairs. Once outside we gathered around a car with the radio blaring and quickly found out it was a power failure. The relief at discovering it wasn’t terrorism was so intense it made me giddy.

Z and I managed to find each other that day and we walked home over the Manhattan Bridge. On the Manhattan side we stopped at a deli that kept its doors open and bought a dozen bottles of water. By that point the fear mongering that there would be a repeat of the looting and violence of the Blackout of 1977 was everywhere.

But guess what? It didn’t happen. As we were crossing the bridge folks who had been stuck on the subway for several hours were being evacuated. We shared our water with a couple of the overheated and shellshocked riders. And when we arrived in Brooklyn there were vendors hocking water bottles. For a dollar. No price gouging at all. When we got home probably about four hours after the blackout happened we realized all we saw were people helping each other out. Decency and kindness were the defaults that day. I was so proud to be a New Yorker, for the first time I felt like the city was going to be ok.

Of course this is an enormous oversimplification of how to heal from a terrorist attack. Obviously I don’t really hope that Boston is faced with another emergency, though I do want the city to experience the relief and love and pride in itself that I felt on that August day in New York. I don’t mean to suggest they ignore or forget the pain and heartbreak and fear they are experiencing today. But decency and kindness-and there has been so much decency and kindness and heroism-is harder to digest when the horror is so close. Someday soon I hope that the conduct of the citizens of Boston will serve as a reminder of the good in people without being overshadowed by the hate that drives a few. After time Boston will be able to celebrate its decency without simultaneously mourning the casualties of hate.


My family sends love to all Bostonians.


6 thoughts on “Boston

  1. This is so funny. (Funny curious.) I am just now reading a book called “Blackout” by John Rocco with the kids. Talks about the blackout in NYC where people got together, everyone came out on their roofs and barbecued, talked with neighbors, shared melting ice cream, stopped what they were doing and generally shared the love.

  2. You know, I never quite thought about it that way, but I suppose the blackout did have that effect on me as well. After the initial terror I felt, complete with flashbacks to 9-11, it sort of became fun and people were nice. I think, though, that a lot of the aftermath of 9-11 made me feel that way as well. It amazed me how much I felt a part of a community in the days and weeks afterward. It was horrible, but it also helped me to feel how much people loved each other and how we could all come together. That sounds so cheesy, but it really was true. I’ve been thinking of how much I hate the way that 9-11 changed me and the way I react to other tragedies, but this post gave me a lot of perspective, so thanks.

    • Totally agree about the aftermath. There was so much support from fellow New Yorkers. I suppose the reason that the blackout ended up being incredibly healing was there was no flip side. We weren’t being attacked that day, no one was actively trying to kill us. Even so people behaved with decency. It was a really good day.

      Thanks for the comment because I do feel presumptuous with this post. What healed me might not be appropriate for other people who have been through a terrible event. I’m not saying my reaction is the universal and correct one, but it is what made me feel better. Ultimately I hope those who lived through yesterday will each find their own way away from constant fear.

      • I totally agree. And you were definitely not presumptuous. It was very insightful, personal, and real. Sometimes I get upset at how caught up people are on the “right way” to act when things like this happen and living through it teaches you that you can’t really control the way you react.

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