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One Month Later: Reflecting On The Boston Marathon Bombings

An essay by Radio Boston’s Anthony Brooks

One month after the bombings, I still can’t stop thinking about what happened that day. And know I’m not alone.

I want to stress that I was among the very fortunate. When the bombs exploded, I was a few blocks away: right here, safe in the WBUR studios. I might as well have been on the other side of the world. I was also lucky because nobody that I know or love was hurt or injured in those blasts — even though, like all of us, I feel and care deeply for those who were killed, injured, who lost children, limbs and and their sense of security for ever.

But one month on, what strikes me is how the attack and the violent week that followed, has left markers just about everywhere — and those marker make this city feel so much smaller. It’s not only that this community came together like one big family responding to an assault that felt so personal to so many of us. It’s that today, it feels as though there are physical reminders along so many of my usual routes through this city.

When I ride to work, my bike route takes me from East Somerville, through Cambridge, Central Square, and over the Charles. Before the bombings, it was a pleasant enough ride, sometimes a bit of a battle with traffic, but nothing that made me think terribly hard — beyond the pleasure of breathing the morning air.

Now it’s different.

I ride past a Somerville auto body shop, and I think — that’s where Tamerlan Tsarnaev worked. I head down Norfolk street, and think — this is where the Tsarnaev brothers lived. I head across Memorial Drive, and when I look to the right, I see the Shell station, and think — that’s where that brave car-jacking victim managed to escape and alert police, which began that final chase and bloody confrontation.

My 16-year-old daughter lives in Watertown — just a few blocks from the shoot-out that Sergeant MacLellan just described. She heard the gun-fire, and then saw the heavily armed police searching her back yard and garage early that morning. When I drive her home, it only takes the sight of a street sign — Webster, Dexter, Laurel, or Franklin — to prompt a comment between us. That’s where it happened. That’s where officer Donahue was almost killed. That’s where they finally captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

So the city feels smaller. Woven together by a series of physical monuments to those days of chaos fear, pain and loss — as well to the bravery and courage of so many.

I’m not sure when or if my daily ride past all those monuments will stop reminding me of what happened that day. In many ways, I don’t want it to — because I don’t want to forget.

At the same time, as I rode this morning, I was struck by how normal the world seemed. Kids on their way to school, bubbling with enthusiasm rather than fear. Shops open for business, rather than closed in a city-wide lock-down. Cops directing traffic, rather than chasing bombers.

A cool spring day, dawning with hope, and more evidence of a city’s resilience.

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  • James

    Hello Anthony,
               I wanted to tell you that you wrote and delivered a piece that I related to and which moved me so much I felt compelled to find you and tell you. I have been a listener of Radio Boston for a while now and almost always find the program relevant engaging. On the 15th,  a couple days ago, while driving, I heard your piece on Watertown and the impact it had/ has on you and as I told Alex (?) Kingsbury, if I was a tad more literary and  articulate I could have written that piece. 
    I live at BrickBottom in East Somerville and my route is quite similar to yours. As I pass by Norfolk St. and down Prospect past the mosque and the Shell Station etc. I still have the exact same feelings, history happened here. That this was where these events occurred. I also I do not want to forget this for a myriad of reasons. Most important of them being the reminder that as large as this world is at the same time it is as small as our own backyard. 
            On that Friday when we were all in a suggested ‘lockdown’, I wanted to escape and photograph the city devoid of people, all holed up at home and each sharing in a common experience and each waiting for the next shoe to drop. Waiting to have questions answered, waiting for those questions to be asked. I was on my way out the door when Governor Patric relaxed the self imposed restriction. I drove through Union Sq. and was about to take a right on Prospect St when I saw lots of lights on Webster St. I proceeded down and came upon the media and Cambridge Police Dept. in full force. Not even realizing that Norfolk St. ended at Webster. 
     I was curious what the buzz was. I asked a cop and got the answer I could have expected. I proceeded up to Columbia and took a right onto Cambridge St. and it was like driving into a Hollywood movie set. 
    As I proceeded down Cambridge St. and crossed Norfolk St. I realized that it was that end of Norfolk St. where the brothers had lived, not near Central Sq. as I had incorrectly ‘assumed’.

    Anyway, like for you the experience for me left several incredible and deep memories. To see the minute corner of the world that I call home, being fixated on, scanned, searched and turned inside out, upside down searching for clues and reasons, accomplices and fingerprints while the entire world watched. It was a very unusual experience, to have such world attention focused on our neighborhood(s). 

    I wanted to thank you for doing such a great piece and let you know that for myself and all the others who heard that piece and experience it similarly, but do not take the time to applaud and acknowledge, that you wrote and delivered something with such insight and passion that I felt I you ought to receive some well earned feedback.

    Many Thanks,
    James Felice

Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

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