Today I drove past the most beautiful cherry trees in full bloom on Boston’s first 70 degree day. Outside I could smell the ground opening up, and buds this morning were tiny leaves by this afternoon, coaxed to life by the warm, humid air.
For the first time today I have turned off all media. The near silence I hear out my windows is almost exactly the same as it has been all day: cars drive by in the same approximate rhythm, a few live things click and murmur. But the silence of the day was a million-strong urban area holding its collective breath while a 1000-law-enforcement manhunt for a terrorist took place a few miles away. The silence of tonight is dumbfounded, grateful, prayerful, tearful, healthily skeptical relief that it is over. It is over, right?
The Onion, Jezebel have covered the humorous take on a week seemingly extra burdened with negative events. Scores of bloggers, journalists, pundits, and commentators more eloquent and generally emotional than I, will take on the sincere humanity heart string stories. Which leaves me with the only angle I can even hope to do well, reporting my own maladjusted, slightly media-numbed thoughts and feelings.
This week, and I suspect this day more than Monday, changed my life. I am certain of it. And in three years or so I might be able to begin to tell you how.
Even in the present tense, I swear I can hear this day being written into history. I am surprised to find this feeling is uncomfortable.
There is a real and tangible story here that is absolutely necessary: Unidentified humans intentionally murder, maim, and terrorize other humans. Perpetrator humans are identified. Perpetrator humans are (through no small effort) secured (and killed). This is an important and concrete (and disruptive and nerve-wracking), and relatively ‘black-and-white’ set of events, that conducts most of us from ‘How did this happen?’ to ‘Good, now this won’t happen again.’
And yet there are (probably, actually) a million other stories that are both far more real, and far more ‘grey’ because they are of the people who lived them.
Events like this -yes, this is Boston’s first time at the party, but we are regrettably not a unique guest- really make the ‘grey’ in life stand out to me. And they make me cringe at how poor we are at dealing with and making room for: a diversity of expressions of fear, grief, joy relief; the reality that conflicting emotions can exist in one person; alternate, differing, surprising opinions and beliefs; complicated.
I am deeply and unequivocally grateful to the multi-force groups that found and captured the living suspect. I wonder why I didn’t see more women.
I appreciated the media coverage by Boston’s two main NPR outlets. I believed what they reported, and believed in the challenges of clear, factual reporting when every citizen with a social media account is a journalist. I didn’t want their reassurance that their news was pure. I wanted to be left to judge that for myself. I still waited to believe everything they said until it had been verified by multiple sources, and when possible, by a government/law enforcement briefing.
I turned off most coverage of the suspects’ biographies. I do not need to know where someone went to high school to remind me that they are human. Every person living on this earth so far was born of woman, seeded by man (okay I’m certain of >99.9% of them on that last part). There is no other way to get here. Thus these brothers are made of blood and bone, like the rest of us, and their loss -that is their decision to do awful, awful things- is the first tragedy in this story. I disagree with those who believe no one should say anything good things about the suspects. What if good was a part of their lives? Human beings are complicated.
I am glad to be safe, and that my loved ones are safe, and that tomorrow I can feel a little bit different walking through the world. But, I wonder when I will sleep. I wonder when these days will settle into my biography, and not seem like something I read about somewhere. I wonder if anything that was a priority before 128 hours ago, will ever seem more important than the lessons I still can’t articulate, that I learned in these days.
There’s only one way to find out.