Because it is Hard to Wait

I grew up outside of Boston. I would take the T into Harvard Square to go to Newbury Comics to actually buy comic books. I went to the Radcliffe Publishing Course (which now belongs to Columbia but I can still say I went to Harvard, right?) the summer after college graduation and spent a summer hanging out in Harvard Square. I drop my Rs and add them back in in most of the right places. I use “wicked” and “pissa” appropriately. I have family and friends who have run the marathon, but I’m not a runner myself.

I am heartbroken by the death and destruction in my old “home town.” I saw Larry Bird play in the old Boston Garden many times. I went to Red Sox games with my dad and chased foul balls across the roof of Fenway Park. I remember going to the fights at the Gahden and being surprised when they actually played hockey. I saw the Cars and Billy Joel play there.  I have a Boston Red Sox license-plate holder even though I live in California (actually, they are not that rare out here). When we buried my grandfather, who had been a dry-goods peddler for many years, one of the lines from the eulogy was that he knew the location of every broken parking meter in Boston.

My family and I went to Boston last fall.  We took the kids to see the Make Way for Ducklings statues in the Public Garden. We went to the New England Aquarium. It was fun to be a tourist in a town that I no longer really know but that you feel a bit like you are stepping into an old shoe when you get there.  It feels familiar.

But watching the news yesterday, nothing felt familiar.

The thing is, and I’ve only heard my wife mention it, one of the big goals for marathon runners who are not in the habit of running twenty-six miles before breakfast is to “break 4 hours,” meaning they want to finish the marathon in four hours.  When did the bombs go off?  Right around the four-hour mark, the point when a lot of runners would be striving to cross that finish line.

This was not just a bombing with horrible intentions, it was designed to strike when there would be a lot of folks working hard to be right in front of the bombs without knowledge of the danger.  Additionally, the bombs seem to have been designed to literally cut people off at the knees.  I’m theorizing, of course, but I do wonder if the bomber literally wanted to not only kill runners but injure others in a way that they would never run again.  Or it may simply be that the bombs were under something that directed the blast out rather than up.

I lived in New York City on 9/11.  I remember the day very clearly and I remember that by the next day, it all seemed quite distant and surreal to me.  Because on the Upper West Side, it was pretty much business as usual, other than subway service.

But this does not seem distant and surreal. It feels very close to home because, geographically, it is.  Less than 30 minutes from my old house, without traffic.

So why am I writing this? Because the waiting is hard. Waiting for more information. Waiting for resolution. What? They haven’t caught the guys yet?  Shows like CSI and NCIS would have caught the bombers by now. But real life doesn’t play out that way. On Grey’s Anatomy, a doctor lost her leg and now performs hours-long surgeries and wears high heels with a prosthetic. I’m not doctor, but I’m pretty sure that’s a pipe dream. People lost their lives and others lost their limbs yesterday. Somewhere down the road, I know we are going to see one, two, or a half-dozen runners cross that Boston Marathon finish line on prosthetic legs because of yesterday and that’s going to be day of incredible emotion.

People talk about Boston being resilient and of it coming back from this.  And it will, but it won’t ever be the same. Next year’s marathon will look less like a premiere international sporting event and more like the president coming to town. There will be snipers and bomb-sniffing dogs and security worth of Inauguration Day.

And in the meantime there will be recriminations.  Why didn’t the BPD do more? Didn’t anyone consider the potential for bombs? Why weren’t they sweeping with bomb-sniffing dogs?  But how do you possibly secure twenty-six miles and all of the surrounding facilities?

Who will come out to run next year? Who would dare to come watch? I suspect many. I suspect it could be the biggest and best Boston Marathon ever, and I will look forward to that.

Because it is hard to wait.


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