This post was going to be an upbeat summary of my son’s Boston Marathon experience and the six people – four adults and two children – who car-hopped along the route, cheering their runner on three times over the 26.2-mile course.
Jason completed the marathon in just under three hours, crossing the finish line an hour before the city was torn apart by two bombs. We all left downtown Boston about a half hour before chaos reigned. My lighthearted take on the day vanished.
The van load of seven people – six spectators plus our marathon hero – left the city and headed for our weekend lodgings, a relative’s home in a suburb outside the city. We detoured to Bertucci’s, the four-year-old’s favorite restaurant, for lunch.
On the way home I checked my phone, strictly out of habit, and saw a Bloomberg alert: there was an explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
At the same time everyone’s cell phones started ringing. Friends and family, knowing our day’s activities, anxiously phoned. Were we OK?
Everyone sat glued in front of the big screen TV, not quite believing what had happened.
Once more our safe, secure life and environment were threatened.
My generation, the baby boomers, did not experience the difficult Depression or war years. We were supposedly lucky to be born after World War II and raised in an era of peace at home and a rising standard of living – the 1950s.
Yet there were rumblings of troubled times ahead.
We did not experience first-hand the news stories and shock of nuclear attacks at the end of World War II. That was history and something we did not truly understand. Older baby boomers remember school drills where everyone either ducked under their desks or left classrooms and lined the school halls. This was supposed to protect us from a nuclear disaster. Friends and/or family members may have constructed bomb shelters, but the nuclear threat and communist panic of the era were all in the background to little kids growing up in safe American communities.
The sixties jolted us out of youthful complacency as President Kennedy faced down Russia during the Cuban missile crisis, and then was assassinated. Later in the decade people we knew – school mates, neighbors, family members – went to Vietnam, or maybe Canada to avoid being sent to Vietnam, or enrolled in college to avoid either occurrence.
The cold war raged while we went to school, married and raised families. The Berlin Wall came down. On the domestic front political turmoil exploded. The first World Trade Center bombing and then the Oklahoma City bombings occurred in the 1990s. Accosted by both foreign and domestic terrorists, we could no longer take our safe and secure shores for granted. America was vulnerable.
Yet a brief look at history shows domestic terrorism is not a new phenomenon. On October 1, 1910, an explosion destroyed two floors of the Los Angeles Times building. Twenty people died and twenty were injured. Union members (the paper was anti-union) were responsible for the devastation.
Ten years later, on September 16, 1920, a bomb exploded on Wall Street in New York City. Thirty people died. 300 were injured. The perpetrators remain unknown. This was the deadliest attack in U.S. history until the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995.
The twenty-first century ushered in the worst terrorist attack on American soil with the September 11, 2001, assault on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
And now the Boston Marathon explosions are added to the list of terrorist acts on American soil.
We are a resilient and optimistic people, and once over the initial shock will perhaps be more vigilant, and will definitely move forward. That means once more planning to sometimes participate in life’s events and at other times be a spectator.
We already are planning to be back in Boston for next year’s marathon. As spectators, of course (hub and I are not as crazy as our son).
This will be our reply to violence:
to make music more intensely,
more devotedly than ever before.