Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Another Night on the Boston Common

The communications center I work at looks out over a middle school and the university beyond, and just across the street from the window I like to sit by is a gigantic flag pole. When America observes that most respectful gesture of mourning, lowering the flag to half-mast, this is the view I see.


Its been a sadly familiar sight in recent times, but this cuts even deeper than other recent events, because I have special feelings for the city of Boston.  It is in fact my favorite city in the whole world, at least among those I have actually travelled to.

When I was a young college student in that dreadful December of 1980 I saw a picture of John Lennon fans at a candlelight vigil for thr Beatle on the Boston Common. Something about that particular photo really stuck with me, and several years later when I created  an angst ridden where has our generation gone  play about Lennon's death I called it A Night on the Boston Common. (Unfortunately Lawrence Kasaden had the same sort of idea at the same time, and called it the Big Chill. But I digress.)

At the time I had never been to Boston and wouldn't get their for nearly 10 years. But I found the city fascinating. A couple years later, I  was researching a play on the great actor, Edwin Booth, who spent large parts of his life in Boston and was buried there, and again I was drawn. Then there were those Concord writers Alcott and Emerson and Thoreau. And then there were the Red Sox. I was born to be a Red Sox fan, because I get futility, and curses, and Babe Ruth, and coming so close only to fall just short--the Red Sox are like the story of my life,

When I finally got there, in the early 90's I was smitten. To one who loves history as I do, Boston is living breathing history. You find yourself standing at the site of the Boston Massacre or the Old North Church or on the deck of the US Constitution and you feel the presence of those who went before. I made it to the Boston Common as well--had social media existed back then I surely would have posted a "Made it at last" photo to my
Facebook feed.  The public transit is excellent (a major consideration for someone who doesn't drive.) I had several good friends in the area, and then in the mid 90's my brother lived in the area for a few years, and I made a number of trips up there with my young son. He, in fact, saw his first few big league ball games in Fenway Park

. We walked the Freedom Trail from Bunker Hill to the Boston Public Garden, riding on the swan boats, marching with the statues of Mrs Mallards Ducklings, paying our respects to the 54th Mass memorial. 


The city is also very famously, the home of many people who drew from America,s immigrant tradition. Some of my Irish ancestors passed through their back in the 1880's.

Boston became my favorite big city.

Although we haven't been back recently, I always hoped to get another chance. And although I had never seen a marathon run, I hoped to some day. I was taken to Cambridge one time during the running of the Charles, and the good natured atmosphere, like the world was being invited to a private party, was delightful.


Monday I was sitting at work when my twitter account started blowing my phone up.  The initial reports sounded like possible accidents: "Explosions heard near the finish line of the marathon" they said. But as usual in this these sorts of things, the news just kept getting worse.

This hurts so much on so many levels. The sorrow and hurt to so many families, the hurt done to a favorite city, the interplay of sports, it all hurts so much. The scene of the tragedy is but a few blocks from  the Commons, the site that had first drawn me to Boston so many years ago.

We are always appalled when these events occur. We can picture ourselves in the shoes of the people who were there. When it is in a location that we have seen, we identify even more.

We can see ourselves in that place and time.

Marathons in many ways are the most democratic of sporting events. Winning, except for the most elite runners takes a back seat simply finishing, to doing ones best. You don't have to pay admission to attend a marathon either, just find a vacant spot on the street to stand and cheer.

Last night there was another memorial on the Boston Common, another grieving. People going through their daily lives had them interrupted violently. Humanity at its worst. But other people, despite their trauma, found the courage to come out into the open and mourn together. Humanity at its best. Just as the firemen and doctors and nurses and others who ran towards the carnage on Monday are the best of humanity.

Even as we recoil from the darkness, we are drawn back to the light by our essential goodness  to each other.


25 comments:

  1. My kid was on the common last night after the explosions in his part of the city. I thank God he and his wife and friends are all fine. But I worry as he is really very sad. Boston is the place he calls home above all else and he is feeling pretty compromised right now. THanks for this post ....I sent him a link

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    1. Thank you Zoe, so glad they are ok.

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  2. I hope we all find our way out of these dark days. Life is hard enough day to day, these man-made tragedies are just inexplicable.

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    1. I agree Vanessa. It may be whistling in the dark, but we may just find the light at the end of the tunnel.

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  3. Boston is a special place because of its walkability and "settled" layout. As Zoe said, I'm relieved that my family in Boston is okay, but I worry about emotional fallout. Thanks for this virtual tour of Beantown.

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    1. Thanks Kristin. And you are right, much of what is special about Boston is it walkability, the way you can turn a corner and find yourself looking right at a spot you have read about your whole life. I do hope that isnt lost in the need for security and caution.

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  4. Boston is such a great city. I've been there a few times, but not in quite a few years. I was thinking that I really want to get back up there soon.

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    1. I have been telling myselof for years that we need to go back, especially as the Girl has never seen the city. Last time I was there it was the height of the Big Dig,not that it matters that much to a lifelong pedestrian.

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  5. I went to college in Boston, spent four years walking the places you mentioned. Thanks for giving me yet another reminder of how much I love the city, and how much I grieve for it this week.

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    1. Thank you Samantha, I was hoping to reach others who feel as I do about the city. As I type this I am watching the prayer service from the cathedral, and it seems a lot of others feel this way also.

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  6. I have never been to Boston, but it has always been on my to-do list. Some day soon...

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    1. Oh you should, its an amazing place! Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. It is hard in the darkness to be drawn back to the light sometimes, but posts like this help. Thanks for this!

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    1. Thanks Kirsten...that's exactly what I eas stumbling towards.

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  8. I agree there is something about Boston. Raised in Florida, I loved the American history, the cobble stones, and I too fell in love with the Red Sox who used to train in Winter Haven. "Its been a sadly familiar sight in recent times" yes, sadly so very true.

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    1. I love the streets! I took a tour once and they told us that in colonial times the legal definition of a street was that 2 cows could pass without touching. Bostonians of course double park in the same streets.

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  9. I lived in Boston for a time. Ultimately I couldn't hack the winters and the drivers. But the city is so amazing and iconic in so many ways. Monday was so unbelievably surreal and sad.

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    1. The advantage of being a lifellong pedestrian is that I only had to listen to complaints about traffic. But I had a friend who had lived there all her life who wouldn't drive downtown.

      It is totally surreal to watch things unfold in places one knows.

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  10. It sure hits close to home when something like happens to a beloved city.

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    1. It does indeed Natalie Thank you.

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  11. The band has played Boston and it's a great city. My heart goes out to the people there.

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    1. Getting to perform there would be very cool. The whole thing is just heartbreaking.

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  13. Hi Meg. Sorry, made an error typing too quickly and had to repost. I’ve been to Boston; I love that city and have special feelings about it too (as well as New England roots). The horrendous event at the marathon was especially hard to bear. My late dad grew up in nearby Providence and was a Red Sox fan. What a cute picture of your son when he was young! I agree that marathons are the most democratic of sporting events. Even more monstrous that the bombers chose that event in the historic city of Boston. The last line of your post is especially moving.

    I remember John Lennon’s death on that awful December night too. How interesting that you created a play and I like the name, “A Night on the Boston Common.” (too bad about the Big Chill!)

    Also, I nominated your blog for a Liebster blogger award. My post is quite long covering several awards and random facts, so look for it in Part 2. Even if you don’t do an award post (and believe me, I understand the time involved!), I hope the nomination brings a smile to your face! And feel free to post the award without all the rules (throwing out the rule book lol!).

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    1. Thank you Lil, I appreciate the kind words, and the award. I am slowly working my way through the Liebster blog post and should get it up soon.

      My son not only saw his first big league ball game at Fenway, but his first Indians game in Fenway. (hard to believe now, but in the late 90s it was easier to get Red Sox tickets than Indians tickets.) Both kids want to go there, the Boy doesnt remember it that well, and the Girl has never been there. Now I feel drawn even more.

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