Two Days Ago, I Was at the Boston Marathon…and Why That Won’t Stop Me From Traveling
At 1:00 pm, I had finally pushed my way towards the front, anxious to catch a glimpse of my friend as he crossed the finish line. The sun was shining, the crowd was boisterous despite being packed nine deep on to the sidewalk, and the runners passing us in droves were all smiles as they finished off an incredible accomplishment.
This is what the Boston Marathon was all about.
At 2:50 pm, two explosions went off, and the scene of joy and triumph that had existed seconds earlier was gone. Mayhem took it’s place.
Luckily, my friend had run a personal best time of 3 hours, and I had left the finish line about an hour prior. Instead of potentially being a victim, I was sitting in Quincy Market, enjoying a post race lunch, unaware to what was happening.
At least for the first minute or two.
And then, the text messages started pouring in. “Are you alright?” and “Is everything ok?” messages were coming in droves, and all of us at the table sat there for a second, wondering what was going on.
And then, we heard the news. Two bombs had gone off at the finish line, mere yards away from where we had stood just an hour earlier.
Confusion, shock, relief, and guilt all hit me at once.
What was going on?
Is this really true?
Thank the Lord I left earlier.
Why was I spared, when others weren’t?
The setting, and surrounding, made it even more surreal. Along with other diners, we continued eating our lunch. Life continued like normal in Quincy Market, with street performers continuing their acts and people shopping and talking.
Some of them probably had no idea what had happened just moments before.
Some of them did, and didn’t know how to act. I was in that latter group.
Should we leave downtown Boston immediately?
Were we safe there?
Were there more bombs?
No one knew the answers to these questions. Not the cops, not the government officials, and certainly not us.
We puttered around in a daze for another half hour or so, not saying much. We walked down the waterfront, where a giant tv was showing the news. Everyone sat silent, watching it and hoping for answers that never came.
Eventually, Heather and I decided to hop on the subway and head out towards the more residential area of the city where we were staying. While we were somewhat hesitant to board the subway, it felt like the best option.
We didn’t want to stay in a downtown area that we weren’t sure was safe, and if the subways did stop running, we’d be stuck there indefinitely.
And while we did eventually get back to Jamaica Plain safely, and then out of Boston and back to Philly a day earlier than planned, I have yet to shake the feeling that manifested itself in me the minute I heard the news.
While I can’t exactly describe the feeling, and I’m not sure when things will start to feel normal again, I do know two things for certain.
1. I’ll continue to pray for the families of the victims and those who are still in the hospital, while also continuing to thank God that everyone I know who was there is safe.
2. This won’t stop me from traveling.
At 1:45, just after my friend had finished the race, we met up with his family. His dad, who I haven’t seen in a while, asked me “when I’ll start traveling to places that are safe” so that he can come visit.
He was referring to the fact that I was in Japan during the tsunami two years ago.
At 2:55, right after the explosions, I received a text message from my friend, telling me “to stop traveling and stay home in good old safe Audubon.”
Both of these people had my best interest in mind, but both followed the same faulty logic. That they KNEW what was safe.
In the first instance, we soon found out that what my friend’s dad thought was safe, Boston, obviously wasn’t. I can only pray that my friend in the second instance is never proven wrong as well.
The fact remains that we do not know what is safe and what is not safe, only what we THINK is safe and not safe.
And oftentimes, we’re wrong.
Hundreds of thousands of children went to school on the day of the December 14, 2012, and almost all of them returned home safe.
Unfortunately, some of the ones that went to Sandy Hook Elementary did not.
Does this mean that we should stop sending our kids to school?
5,000 English teachers were part of the JET Programme in Japan when the tsunami happened. 4,997 of them were safe.
Unfortunately, 3 of them were not.
Does this mean that people should stop going to Japan?
I am in no way saying that precautions and preventive measures shouldn’t be instituted to protect against tragedies that happen, because they most certainly should.
What I am saying is that if we live our lives in fear, that’s all we will ever experience: fear.
I’ve now been around two incredibly traumatic events in the past few years, and I am incredibly thankful that both times, I’ve been safe.
Both times, I’ve also been left with a weird, unshakeable feeling after it happened, one that makes me question why I was lucky enough to be safe, why I travel so much, and whether I should stop.
And both times, I’ve come to the realization that traveling is something that has enriched my life in such an immensely positive way that there is no way I could ever give it up.
The smiles on people’s faces from around the world, the a-ha moments when you finally grasp a nuance of another culture, the smells and tastes of the wonderful foods.
All of these are things that I’m never willing to give up, regardless of whether I’m being “safe”.
Because really, who’s to say what safe even means?
This post is much more of a stream of consciousness than my typical posts. Normally, I edit my posts 2 or 3 times to makes sure they are correct, but here, I felt it was much more important to get my real, true thoughts down as quickly as possible so that I could work through what was going on without making many changes. Please pardon any spelling or grammatical errors.
(photo courtesy of garryknight)