Friday, April 19, 2013
This is the t-shirt that I pulled out of my closet to wear on Monday morning. By mid-afternoon, its significance to me had changed dramatically.
The shirt is at least 10 years old; I bought it from the crew at Ladder 15 / Engine 33 of the Boston Fire Department, while walking past their station at the corner of Boylston and Hereford Streets in the Back Bay section of Boston - about 3 city blocks from where the bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Theirs is one of the busiest fire stations in the country, and the one closest to this latest example of how freedom isn't as free as we would like.
Boston is a familiar and frequent destination - especially the Back Bay. While I've never been there for the Marathon, I've had the opportunity to experience several times the richness, in both literal and figurative terms, that these few square blocks have to offer. I've walked these blocks, from Boston Common past the Public Library to the Prudential Center, over to the Christian Science Headquarters, Symphony Hall, the Berklee and BU campuses, and eventually to Fenway Park.
There are numerous personal and professional benchmarks for me associated with this small area - too numerous to list here.
That many of these institutions and attractions have had their operations significantly altered or halted by the bombings, as well as the manhunt that unfolded today, speaks not only to the density of the area, but its fragility in the face of the commitment to freedom and liberty that it also collectively represents.
One question that will stick out for me is the amount of disruption that occurred today - a major city basically shut down, house-to-house searches carried out - all to track down one man - I'm wondering how much our society will be changed or de-sensitized to this, or how our priorities as citizens are affected. "They searched the basement? Well that's a shame, but they cancelled the Bruins and the Pens!"
The fact that this attack occurred on Patriot's Day - Massachusetts' official commemoration of the first battles of the American Revolution - should serve as a clarion call for resolve to live as those first patriots did - moving forward, without fear.
This is a most volatile week in our nation's history - our resolve to not cower in the face of terror, regardless of is origins should be strengthened by our recognition of our history and a commitment to keep us safe, peaceful, and free in spite of the cowardly and cruel actions of others.
The Back Bay area, like the metropolitan area around it, is a locus of cultural, tourism, business, historical, and shopping activity that ranks right up there with similar, more famous destinations around the country. That it is suddenly the latest addition to a list of battlefield sites in a war as difficult to understand as it is to fight and prepare for is sad and unfortunate.
I'm hopeful that the apparent quick apprehension of the perpetrators will show not only our resolve as a people to live free and without fear, but also that the freedom that Boston represents for all Americans must be respected by those we entrust with the power to protect and to govern.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those touched by this tragedy.