I consider myself part of the “9-11” generation. While we were too young to truly understand what happened that day, we will always remember where we were, who told us, and the images of the World Trade Center towers crumbling to the ground. In Hopkinton, MA, we remember our teachers telling us that we were going to have a “practice indoor recess,” or that there were “bees in the backstop” outside. Only later did we find out that concerns about the planes having taken off from Logan Airport in Boston was the true reason for this change to our routine. My journal from shortly after that day speaks in an angry fifth-grader’s voice about “some jerk named Osama Bin Laden” who flew planes into the World Trade Center. At the end of the year, myself and my classmates sang “Proud to Be An American,” (complete with hand gestures) at the end-of-year school assembly. We didn’t understand much, but we understood enough to know our world had somehow changed. We were scared.
Twelve years later, I’ll admit I still have fears. Anytime I’m on a crowded subway train in Boston, my blood pressure spikes, as I try to move the thought of the 2007 London bombings out of my mind. In 2005, when I began volunteering at a Boston cultural institution, my mother and I made an emergency meeting plan, should a terrorist attack take place in our city. I still remember where I was supposed to meet her, and think about it every time I drive by. For me, yesterday felt like the inevitable culmination of twelve years of fears. As surreal as the images are, this attack felt to me more like a “when,” than an “if.”
Nonetheless, this attack on the city I love is hitting particularly hard. To the rest of the country, the Boston Marathon may be just a race. They may never have even heard of it. For myself and my classmates from Hopkinton, MA, however, the Boston Marathon is religion. Every April, the roads close down, there is no school, and hundreds of port-a-potties and white tents cover our sports fields and town common. We walk or bike to the town common with our friends and families. Maybe we volunteer, and help load runners’ gear onto buses to be delivered to the finish line in downtown Boston. Everything stops, and our tiny town becomes the epicenter of a major celebratory event. Yesterday, someone or some group of terrible people ripped a hole in the heart of Boston, and this wound extends the 26.2 miles back into Hopkinton. I have no doubt the city and the state will heal, but it will take time.
For now, let’s just take a moment to reflect on why a generation of children were scarred forever on 9-11, and another, too young to remember 9-11, were scarred again yesterday. Planes, crowds, movie theaters, classrooms…these places should be safe. The answer to your problems, oh-crazy-ones, is not violence. I don’t have a solution, but the second we stop looking for a solution, the perpetrators of these heinous crimes have won. This may not have happened in your town, or your state, or near you, but someday it just might. I’d like to think my children will live in a better world than the one I’ve grown up in, and I’d like to start changing things now.