As I sit here, stagnant on my roof, watching the sun go down–orange light bouncing off the Lehigh River–I’m moved by the calming peace this natural beauty presses against me. Massaging my thoughts; the questions have sped like a tornado through my mind leaving behind a wake of unanswered debris that is occasionally stirred by a rogue wind, but for the most part lie heavily weighted on the floor of my mind and in the pit of my stomach.
Gusts of September 11th blow through, present in conversations, implicit in our communal confusion. I was 11. Not knowing the significance–and yet knowing it was, indeed, significant–I felt numbly unaware of the immediate shift of the common. Now, the bombing at the Boston Marathon, which is minute in comparison of physical casualties, draws me more heavily to the feeling that I missed before when I was blessed by the immaturity of my 11 years, and I ask myself why. The shift. The feelings of “everything has changed” and “nothing will be the same” permeate my thoughts on the matter, clouding any ability to formulate a careful or poetic dissection that perhaps is lurking under the surface.
Reading article after article, blog after blog, I have nothing original to say, and yet I feel propelled to say it. In spite of the overwhelming feeling of inarticulate fog, a compulsion exists to push forth the chronic tightness that exists in my chest since I first heard about the bombing at the marathon.
Perhaps it is the benefit of an additional 11 years of life experience giving me the maturity to breathe in the fumes of the aftermath, maybe it is because I know and care about many people–colleagues, friends, and loved ones–that were there to experience it (a geographical proximity that I was also removed from on 9/11), maybe because I, too, have stood at that finish line and felt the overwhelming and unconditional positivity of one of the greatest events in America. A resounding echo bounces around my mind “it was the marathon”… “it was THE marathon”… “it was the MARATHON”… each rendition feeling thicker and more cumbersome than the last.
The Marathon… why.
Having had the distinct privilege of watching one of my best friends (and 25,000 others) conquer the 90 degree heat of the 116th race in 2012, having been moved to tears by the unconditional and unwavering camaraderie only a race precipitates, and having been utmostly inspired by the palpable electricity of the environment, the senseless bombing of the Boston Marathon seems undeniably cruel. The marathon is not political, it is not racially charged (unless you count the ever present domination of “the Kenyans”), there is not a mean word spoken by those who make quippy signs and encourage complete and total strangers. The Boston Marathon is a moving party, with thousands upon thousands of your closest friends.
Such an act has not only claimed the lives and limbs of those simply trying to support their fellow humans, but it has left a gaping hole in our concept of humanity; ironically, the marathon is often an event every year that fills our depleted stores of faith in our communities. And in this instance, we’ve gone unfulfilled. Let us not forget, as well, the runners–most of which were fortunately spared harm in this instance–who dedicated hundreds of hours, miles, and determination to make it to and complete the Boston Marathon. Some, unjustly, did not complete a race they will possibly never revisit, and those that did are robbed of the long due congratulations and celebration of an amazing accomplishment.
There will be no celebrating the runners, no celebrating the immense efforts of the Boston Athletic Association, and no collective afterglow of a community event of such a massive scale–and that breaks my heart. Fortunately, in the midst of all the sadness, we can celebrate the efforts and effectiveness of first responders and laypeople willing to lend a hand, donate blood, or offer up a warm bed for those displaced. And that gives us hope–contributing to our now empty stores of faith in humanity–for the future and confidence that good does still exist in the purest of forms.
While my heart sits here, heavily, resting on the bottom of my stomach as the sun has gone down and the bouncing light has faded, the feeling of solitude creeps in. The feeling that I will not be able to say all that I want to. We will not be able to say all that we want to. We will watch this story unfold; suspicion, apprehension, and caution further bogging down our abilities to relate to each other–to connect. Encumbered by our own restlessness, we will drift further from each other, if we continue to snuff out our collective, breathing light. Reports of gung-ho racers still raring for their chance to hit the pavement as race season unfurls into the summer lifts my heart a little, leaving it floating in uncertainty. But no longer bound by the gravity of grief, I believe we can move on.
Yes, everything will change. Another display of purity dismembered. Yet, somewhere in the dispair, the sun will rise again, bouncing its yellow light off the river, calming the tornadic conditions in our souls, allowing us to breathe… allowing us to move, together.