Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston: My Hometown; Heavy Hearted Tonight

Boston Public Library Courtyard, March 2013

Boston is where I'm from. It's not only the geography of my first eighteen years on this planet, it's also shaped who I am. I owe Boston my direct, no b.s. approach to people and my sense of the world as inclusive of many different nations. Growing up, my neighborhood was a mixture of Chinese, Jewish, and Irish Americans --- all more or less getting along together. There were also African Americans who I babysat for and German Americans across the street. I was a kid, what did I know? I somehow knew I had a pretty good life.

Boston is a small town with a big town reputation. When I worked at the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) on Arlington Street (a couple of block's from today's bombing) I would walk through the Back Bay, through the Gardens and the Boston Commons. At Park Street Station I turned left to Government Center and then under the freeway via tunnel to the North End. I was never in a hurry as this was one of the best parts of the job: delivering course catalogues to the North End Community Center which doubled as a BCAE satellite campus on weeknights. In just forty-five minutes I could cover all of downtown. My town.

Last month I returned to Copley Square to participate in the Associated Writing Program Conference (AWP) along with 12,000 other writers. The weekend was also a celebration of my partner's birthday. On our last afternoon in Boston we strolled through the neighborhoods together under a perfect sky --- snow still fresh enough to look picturesque.

I could never have imagined that five weeks later downtown Boston would resemble Beirut.

Tonight no one knows who is behind the bombings targeting the Boston Marathon --- an event that is both local and global at once. My heart goes out to  to the city that has always seemed indestructible to me, to the people that are the toughest and kindest of any I've known, to the two people killed and 86 injured (these numbers are early estimates) at the Marathon today.

My heart is bruised.

However, I know Boston will not be defeated . One of the stories I heard tonight was from a doctor who was treating people brought in from the areas hit. He said there was a sense of everyone helping each other. Whether this meant dressing wounds for one another or helping people contact loved ones on borrowed cell phones, the doctor said it struck him that people were in this together.

All my love and prayers to you tonight.


  1. Hi Susan
    Such sad news . . . a mad world. . . .
    My nephew Andy was running in the marathon, and my sister Colleen was there. Both safe. Sort of in lock down in their hotel, the restaurants are all closed, so a little hard to find a post marathon meal. Looking forward to flying home tomorrow.

    1. Hi Peter,

      So glad your sister and nephew are safe. Hopefully, their hotel at least has a bar with bar food. It must be the most surreal of times ...Stay safe -

  2. Boston is the Whitcomb family mothership. Can't believe how hard it hit me today. Glad that those you love are safe. Thanks for your blog entry. We're all in this together. xo

    1. Thanks, Kathy,

      You've run that route -- you know that event -- of course it's hitting you hard. I hope at some point in the future you'll write something about the race and today. This is a selfish desire -- I want to read it. Take good care --- xo

  3. Susan, Thanks so much for sharing your response. I grew up in Rhode Island, but spent many weekends at Fenway Park with my dad from the time I was 5 - and later four years at Wheelock College in the urban teaching program. Most of my family is still in the area - Patriot's Day was always one of those unique, very Boston events - still finding it hard to believe. Susan Gilbert

  4. your comments spoke to me as well, even though my little boon-dock town was 25 miles away. Back then, it was a different world. Patriot's day was when we plowed the garden and then fished for kivers in the local lake. I knew about the marathon, but I don't remember knowing of anyone who ran in it until I moved here.
    3 doctors from our Olympia hospital were there, all safe.

    1. Glad the people you know are all safe. I heard that many of the runners went straight from the finish line to Mass General to donate blood for the victims. Patriot's Day is such a quirky Boston occasion; I just never thought of it as attracting terrorism...