This week has been hard for me to process. Even though I’m halfway around the world, living life in a very different reality, this week felt like someone punched me in the stomach. Boston has become my home in a way that I never imagined it would. I don’t usually get attached to places, but I think that no matter where in the world I end up, Boston, and MIT in particular, will always be a part of me.
This week I have felt divided between physically being in São Paulo but trying to follow and understand what was happening in Boston. The internet is a strange beast; it enables instantaneous connection from anywhere in the world. A co-worker mentioned that there was an explosion in Boston off-hand. I checked on Twitter and the first mention was 11 minutes prior. 11 minutes. I knew about it before getting emergency alerts from MIT. I read somewhere that it took only 35 minutes for some victims to get into surgery from the time of the blasts. I can’t imagine what they were feeling at 11 minutes.
There were the minutes after that where I sent a mass email to friends, and then worried until I got responses. The first came 2 minutes later, letting me know that they were safe. I am halfway around the world; I can’t even fathom the feelings, thoughts and fears of the people who were there.
This week I learned how to use social media; how to follow something on Twitter, how to get instantaneous updates. I spent Friday following the manhunt and I can probably tell you everything that happened. I felt like I was in my own world. No one here could understand the knot in my stomach every time I thought about what happened. I don’t expect to feel unsafe when I return; the reality we live in is not like that in many other parts of the world, where bombs and violence have turned into a part of daily life. But the fact is that it did happen, and it can happen, and it happened in a city I consider my own. I don’t know how to process it. I don’t know when I will, or what it means.
I know that I am incredibly grateful that no one I know was hurt. I know that I can’t imagine what people are feeling, or what families of those injured or dead are going through. I can’t imagine what it is like to be in Boston right now. But I know that being away from the city has made me realize how much a part of me it is.
I don’t know where we will go from here, but I hope it does not make the US slide further towards a culture of fear. Stopping marathons won’t do anyone any good. Stopping 9 year olds from immigrating to the US won’t help either. What may help is learning about the history and culture of Chechnya, Afghanistan, Albania, Austria, Bhutan or anywhere else in the world. Realizing that people everywhere are inherently the same, and that some are unfortunately just bad. The people. The individuals. Not the culture, the society or the place.
As I get older, I seem to keep having to learn that the world can be an unjust and unkind place, but we cannot live with that hanging over our heads. We have to live each day as an extraordinary day, and appreciate the experiences and the people around us. What is going to happen will happen, but your life if what you make of it.