It’s hard to understand why terrible things happen. Why they happen to other people and not you. And why sometimes, that annoying inconvenience of your day is what ends up being your biggest blessing.
I was supposed to go to the Boston Marathon today. I was supposed to go watch my roommate run across the finish line, alongside all my other roommates, holding signs and wearing silly t-shirts. But I didn’t go. I got the 24-hour bug and stayed in bed all day.
At 3 pm, I pulled myself together and went to a meeting that would determine next year’s housing. At 3:15, I sent a quick text to my roommates informing them of the room we would be living in together for our senior year.
And then at 3:18, I exited the meeting room and walked into the main hall, into a crowd of people all standing in dead-silence. Everyone was watching the same TV screen, playing the same video clip over and over, of sirens blaring and lights flashing, and something about the Boston Marathon scrolling across the bottom of the screen over and over again. Explosions? Bombs? Casualties? No one spoke. People just stood in shock and slowly pulled out their phones.
And in that moment, I wondered what my roommates, all of whom were at the marathon except for me, were doing when I had sent my silly text just a few minutes earlier. Was that the last text they would ever receive from me? Were they safe?? What if I had been there with them?
As the day went on, I waited and waited for phone service to work, to hear from missing friends, to find out if they were okay. And I, too, also heard from friends, some of whom I have not spoken to in years, asking if I was okay, asking if I had heard from others– all of us connecting and reaching out and working together to make sure everyone was safe.
The friends I would’ve been standing with were less than a block away from where the 2nd bomb was planted. They heard the 1st loud boom and ducked, and then, only a few short seconds later, when the 2nd bomb went off, they ran for their lives, away from the smoke, holding hands and not letting go. One of them lost her shoes, one of them lost her phone. They ran 4 blocks away before they stopped. And when they asked a nearby policeman what had happened, he responded, “what explosions?” Nobody knew what was going on.
My roommate who ran the race never got to finish her marathon. She said that all the runners just stopped running, with only a mile left. Some collapsed from exhaustion. Others just stood around in confusion.
I know many spectators who were there that were not injured, many runners who did or did not cross the finish line but are safe and sound. I also know a few people who are included in that number of victims, who were next to a bomb that went off and are now in the hospital.
A 3rd bomb was found that did not go off, a little further past the finish line. And over 4 different bomb scares occurred within miles of me in the Cambridge/Harvard area. One of our libraries was evacuated, the Yard was shut down at one point. But in the midst of this confusion and fear, of these constant updates of threats and scares and potential danger, I also found a strong community of friends, trying to work together to make sure everyone was okay– through email lists and texts and phone calls, through lists of names being checked off as updates were received, we stuck together.
I am so sad that something this terrible could happen on a day that should be happy and full of celebration. I am so sad for the victims of this tragedy and for the runners who worked so hard and never got to finish their marathon. But I am also grateful. That my friends are okay. That I did not have to experience what they did. And that tonight, I was able to spend the evening with all of my roommates, all of us safe and together.