it feels impossible not to acknowledge today, the marathon, the memory of two years ago. I wrote this then and the picture gives me goosebumps. Grace looked big then but of course now she’s two years taller and older. At the last visit to the doctor, 5’1″. And she runs more now – in fact my essay about Eleven for This is Adolescence revolved around the metaphor that cross-country has become (to me) for parenting. Incidentally, it was a thrill to see that essay in Brain, Child’s newest issue.
But today is equal parts solemn and celebratory, with shadows of two years ago hanging heavily over a day filled with achievement for so many. I have several friends running today, and I bow down to their commitment. They are an inspiration to me, plain and simple. So is my town, for the way we came together in the wake of a terrible experience two years ago.
City of my Heart
On Sunday, the day before Patriot’s Day and the Boston marathon, Grace ran her first road race. On the marathon course. I was in New York for work, so I missed it, but I was sent this fantastic picture. My heart swelled with both pride and shock, because really, how can my baby be that old? That tall?
On Monday, Patriot’s Day, as you know, there was an explosion at the Boston marathon. That tall, lanky girl, for whom I think the word coltish may have been coined, dissolved into a puddle of anxiety. I told both she and Whit what had happened the minute I heard (they were home from school, sitting in the room next to my office), mostly because I was so startled by the news. She hovered around my office all afternoon, lurking, asking constant questions, reading over my shoulder.
Right before the explosions, we had been talking about groups of people from the Marines (or Army, I admit I don’t know) who ran the course in their uniforms with backpacks. Grace’s first reaction to the events, and to the few pictures she saw of the devastation (before I turned the TV off), was: “But those poor people just came home from war, where they saw this all the time. They weren’t supposed to see it at home.”
Indeed, they weren’t.
I spent the afternoon toggling between bewilderment at this world that we live in, trying to understand what feels like a relentless wave of violence, and hugely heartened by it, as I received more texts and emails than I can count from people from all corners of my life (and the world) checking that we were okay.
But most of all, this: the city of my heart, my home, is bleeding and broken, under attack.
On our day of celebration, which starts at dawn with reenactments of the battles of Lexington and Concord and ends with the last runners limping across the finish line long after the sun has gone down. Our day of inspiration and striving, of humanity at its finest: I am always moved equally by the runners who push themselves past all reason and by the spectators who come out to watch the river of dedication and devotion. Marathon Monday is a pure celebration of our beating hearts and of our feet walking on this earth. This day, this Patriot’s Day, our day, is now forever marked by explosions, lost limbs, dead children (my GOD – an eight year old – Whit is eight – how is this possible?), senseless death and hurt.
I hate that it happened on our day, on Patriot’s Day, on Marathon day. I hate that this happened at all.
I ache for my city, the city I was born in, the city I’ve lived in since I graduated from college, the city I love, my home.
I know that many other cities in our country have been visited by tremendous pain and brutality over the last several years. I feel a sense of “it’s our turn,” followed immediately by outrage that I could ever say that. What world do we live in where that’s the deal?
This piece was originally written and posted two years ago.
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