Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Too Close To Home

It is easy  to  feel desensitized with all that we see in the news these days.
Some horrific event happens somewhere far away. It grabs our attention and tugs at our hearts. Yet it still feels like a television show, being acted out on all the cable news channels we're riveted to.
I even feel that in the newsroom. Some breaking story involving a murder or something tragic, it just feels like a story. There's no human face to me and no connection.
I have a connection to Boston. I lived there. I worked there. I've been to concerts at almost every venue around the city. I've been to sporting events there, including the Boston Marathon. When I first learned of the bombing Monday, I knew all kinds of people who very well could have been in the area.
During 911, as I sat horrified and stunned at what I saw, it still seemed like some bad action/disaster movie. I knew one or two people that lived in New York but I felt no true connection to the city or its people. Little did I know at that time that one of my childhood friends had been killed in the World Trade Center that day. A life I was still mourning just a week ago today on his birthday.
Boston isn't some far off city. It is the city I went to as a kid on family vacations. It was the big time for a kid from a somewhat small town in Maine. I learned the nation's history by walking the Freedom Trail and taking in all the sights of our nation's rebellion. I still remember walking from the place of the Boston Massacre with my Dad to Causeway Street for the Celtics game that night. It felt like we had walked all over Boston. It's probably only a few streets away. The name Crispus Attucks still sticks in my head. He was the slave merchant killed in the Boston Massacre.
As a kid I visited Boston quite a few times, attending Red Sox games on a occasion. We'd go to the aquarium, hoping to see Andre the Seal in his winter home - or his girlfriend Smoke. My very first Red Sox game was on Patriot's Day. We went and watched some of the Marathon afterwards. I was an excited kid with a brand new Sox hat and innocent to the world in the big city.
Our high school senior trip was to Boston. Then when I went to college it was on the North Shore. Our freshman trip was going into the city. I'd go into Boston for sporting events and concerts. Then I lived there, living off outer Beacon Street while I commuted through the city every day to work at the Boston Globe. The majority of my record collection comes from Boston. When I wasn't working at the Globe, I sought out record shops all over the city. I have a Luxman stereo unit because of a store I saw one in near Boylston Street. I learned that the Luxman had far greater wattage than it was listed. My neighbors are still thrilled about that.
As an adult, Boston has still been a frequent destination and a home away from home. There were more concerts. There were games at the new Garden, including the Frozen Four and the Hockey East Championships. I was elbowed, pushed and shoved at Filene's as crazed potential brides tried to outrace my sister for a wedding dress. I tried to read War and Peace on Boston's subways on my way to work - and failed.
 I went to the Boston Marathon one year. My brother-in-law was one of those runners for charity, like those that were approaching the finish line Monday when the bomb went off. He was running for Dana Farber and his daughter, a courageous cancer survivor. We were a mile from the finish and his kids met him at the finish line and crossed with him.
My experiences are probably just like everyone else I know. When the news broke Monday, there were a wealth of people I knew that could have been there. My sister and her family still live in the area. I have friends that are runners. They could have been in the race or spectators. There were media members that I knew. They were locked down in the hotel. The same hotel where we celebrated my brother-in-law's accomplishment a few years ago.
Fortunately, through Facebook, all the people that I knew that were there got back safely, friends and colleagues. They're safe but traumatized. The innocence and spirit of Patriots Day in Boston may never be the same.
These events are the kinds of things we see on TV. They happen elsewhere. They don't happen where we live. Boston isn't my residence. It isn't my backyard. But it feels pretty damn close.And knowing how many friends and family I have that could have easily been there, it was too damn close.
Whether it be these kinds of events or the rash of shootings, they seem to be getting closer. I drove by Newtown, Connecticut a few weeks ago on my way to New York City. Suddenly, there it was, an even more real place to me than what I saw on TV.
It all makes me wonder what is happening to this world. These things didn't happen when I was a kid. We didn't worry about school shootings. I didn't wonder about going to Boston and wondering if terrorism might strike.
Bill Richard and his family were in Boston seeking the kind of joy and memories I shared with my family. His son was killed. His wife and daughter severely wounded. Two brothers lost legs. Many others were injured, wounded and scarred for life. Many of them are children. All of them were enjoying a beautiful day, celebrating life and enjoying Boston. Something we've all done.
We can all debate the how and why the escalation of violence, evil and hate has risen to the level it has. I don't know all the reasons. I don't know all the answers.
I just know it feels closer than ever today. That's scary and heartbreaking. And amidst
all that hate, I simply search for peace and hope and love.

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