Tonight, Boston is a quiet, somber city. Its downtown streets, I hear, are empty; its roads leading out into the suburbs are jammed; and its population is sorrowful. We are a wounded city, the target, it seems, of persons or a person who–in addition to some cause about which we know nothing yet– has a deep hatred for cities, for big gatherings of athletes and spectators, for what brings people into the streets, makes some of us competitive runners and others the cheering crowd.
Of all the events that take parts in the four corners of this city of ours, the Boston Marathon is perhaps one of the most densely emblematic, for the course which the Marathon takes from the town of Hopkinton and into the center of downtown Boston, for the way in which the city opens its arms to persons of all ages, nationalities, running abilities, the ways in which this highly self-conscious city seems to abandon its reserve –perhaps even snobbery–and become something utterly joyous, complete with flags and closed streets and noisy, boisterous crowds and celebrations.
The Marathon is also very much of a community event. Chances are that someone I know had participated in the event today, as some others had done in previous years. And because of this, the Marathon invites all of us who live in the suburbs to jump on the subway and go downtown to watch the thing in its April splendor. Boston lends itself to this kind of suburb-downtown passage, with some good subway lines connecting the outskirts with the Park Street station. That’s Boston– accessible by public transportation, and welcoming of its visitors from other countries as well as the suburbs.
Tonight, all these qualities of Boston are still intact, but Boylston Street is a scar. Like other cities in recent memory, we too have lost our innocence–again– and become the site of deliberate violence and suffering. Tomorrow morning, the city will try to pull itself together and return to normalcy, but events like this change our entire relationship to our city, and that kind of healing–to restore ourselves to our city, to borrow from Edward Said–takes a long, long time. Patience, and love. Always love– for Boston’s living, throbbing urban tissue, for this intelligent, beautiful home of ours.