Yesterday was a weird, shaky day. Two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three dead, including an eight-year old boy, and 140 hurt. There was more time spent slack-jawed watching cable news and scanning social media than is probably healthy.
I lived in Boston a little less than two years. This was cruel, foul news.
Marathon Day in Boston is a thing to behold. It's held on Patriot's Day in Boston, the third Monday in April. It is a state holiday for a start, but it's also usually right about when the icy grip of New England winter has loosened and spring has started to show its face. The trees everywhere in town have blossomed. A little sun, tolerable weather and the promise of summer draw people out. Each year I went it felt as though the possibilities of the world were opening up again.
The Red Sox play a home game each year at Fenway Park, the beating heart of downtown Boston. In deference to the runners, first pitch is thrown out at 11am. The runners enter into the city limits and are funnelled down Beacon Street into Kenmore Square, the area around where Beacon Street meets Commonwealth Avenue. About the time that the baseball ends, the numbers in the crowd start to swell. Kenmore Square is about 40 kilometres into the course. The runners take a final right on to Boylston Street and finish the race in Copley Square. The Boston Public Library, my favourite building in town, is right there.
Running is not a particularly enthralling spectator sport if you're not cheering someone on specifically. But there's something I kind of dug about taking in the Boston Marathon. All day almost, people come through the course. Hours after the race has been won in high excitement you'll see some contestant hobbling through the last part of the race, for the sake of personal achievement alone. A lot of people race for charity. You see a lot of ordinary people trying to do something extraordinary. There's something wonderful about that.
All along the final mile, the bars are packed and emanate laughter. The streets are full of smiles. The world feels good. It is one of those rare days, not unique to Boston but special nonetheless, when you swear you can sense the collective spirit and optimism of a city.
It was creepy to know that in 2011 I'd walked along the length of the finishing stretch where the bombs exploded during the marathon, stopping intermittently to catch snatches of the race. I thought yesterday about stopping at the finish line with LP the night before the marathon a year ago and us goofing off and taking pictures of each other.
It was worse to think that with these bombs, something happy had again been tarred by an act of hate.
I had friends close to the scene and some of LP's extended family were there. People were shaken up badly, but safe.
I felt especially sad about all of this because I love Boston.
Boston is my own personal Rocky II. (The one where Rocky wins at the end, but before the ones with robots and evil Russians and Hulk Hogan.)
I feel as though I moved from Wellington to Boston in August 2010 a naïve upstart, started a Master's programme terrified at the prospect of failure and stepped into an American future that I couldn't quite wrap my arms around. I threw myself at it. I loved it. I came out dazed and sleep-deprived, but clutching a degree. I got engaged. I learned some things, good things, about myself.
It is the oldest, youngest city in the world. There's as much American history as you'll see anywhere but even more students to boot. It is a smart, simple city, more working class than you'd think at first glance. New York siphons off the arty and Washington DC the power hungry, but Boston holds on to its own scrappy, defiant spirit somehow.
I love Boston for reasons both about the city and for what it served as a backdrop to for me, personally. LP and I talk always about how much we miss the city. We could've stayed, maybe forever, but the pull of family on the West Coast was great. We were happy there, for a good long while. It is one of the few cities in the world I've felt something close to home in, which is a privilege.
I've got no moral here. It shook me up to see someone choose to pour death into the equation yesterday in a scene I could picture in such close and intimate detail. Boston is a good city filled with good people. My own connection to the city didn't make it somehow more tragic, it just stung a little harder.
It's a mad world these days and somehow America finds itself again bearing the strange brunt of that.
My thoughts are with those people out there staring down death and injury today. I'm sorry this happened.