I drove work this morning half a world away from Boston, Massachusetts. Sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and cursing the fast falling rain that turns people in Auckland into shoddy drivers at best, I was completely unaware of what was about to unfold in Bean Town on Patriot’s Day.
In a heartbeat, the droll murmur of morning time social media and online news came alive in a moment. People on the ground in Boston and others across the world were moving at break-neck speed to report on two explosions at the finish line of the iconic Boston Marathon. The words “terrorist attacks” were thrown around. Oh god, not again. No, no, no…please, not again.
As more and more news poured in, my heart sank. A lump formed in my throat as I was transported instantly back to 9/11, to Sandy Hook. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness for those whose lives were changed at random flooded through me. My safe harbor, my home, my country was under attack and fellow Americans were caught in the chaos. I closed my eyes and hoped beyond hope no one would be too badly hurt.
But, that hope was in vein. Thanks to social media and the real-time speed at which people on the ground were uploading photos and videos, it was only minutes before I saw a 15 second clip of the moment the first bomb went off. I recoiled in horror watching a 78 year-old Washington state man fall to his knees – they buckled underneath him, and then he was knocked over by the force of the blast. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it again, knowing full well there were people behind the barriers that were blurred by the video quality who were most likely dying or dead.
I spent the morning sick to my stomach and distracted. I refreshed my internet browser and Google search of the bombing every few minutes to see if any new information was being reported. I wanted the explosions to be an accident. But, they weren’t. And, in all reality, we all probably knew that from the get go.
First reports were of 49 injured. Then the casualties were reported – there were two dead. More updates came throughout the day. 40 injured jumped to 150, two deaths became three. Among those who lost their lives, an innocent child of eight years. Heart, broken.
As the day went on, local media and radio announcers started reporting on Boston. I was sickened to hear them speaking with an undertone of disgust for the level of reporting on the bombing – purely because the tragedy happened in America. Why, they wondered, were the deaths of three Americans being reported when bombs in the Middle East kill hundreds of people daily? I wanted to rip my radio out of the car and toss it out the window. Drive to the radio stations and complain. Seriously? You can’t compare Boston to the historical unrest in the Middle East the same way you can’t compare the loss in Christchurch to that in Japan when the earth shook both places.
All lives are equal, this is a fact of life. Whether you’re from a slum in India, war-torn Iraq, or suburban Boston. That said, all situations are not equal. America is not the Middle East. The United States is not a war-torn nation whose citizens live in constant fear of terrorism and violence. We are not at war over social, political and religious issues. We are a proud people. We count ourselves as safe when we’re in small towns or looming cities. We believe our country is safe. And, for the most part, so does the rest of the world.
Days like today remind me how lucky I am to be American. How proud I am to come from a country that still stands on the side of good and part of a larger community of people who were caught on film running towards the bomb blasts to help strangers. In the midst of all of the terror, the smoke, the chaos and the blood – people ran to help those in need. To me, that’s America and Americans in a nutshell.
Living as an American abroad, I often see and hear people dissing the USA. It’s pretty confusing because these are the same people who watch American TV, wear American labels, idolize American sports stars, listen to American music and drive American cars. They are the same people who won’t hear a hard word spoken against their own country yet don’t understand the fervor of Yanks who love their homeland – as beautifully flawed and imperfect as it is.
Tonight, dusk has fallen over New Zealand, my beloved adopted homeland. And, while my body is here, my heart is half a world away in Boston – with my fellow Americans. Here’s to you, heroic Bostonians.
Run strong, heal well and find a way forward…so many of us are behind you.