Where were you at 2:56 pm on April 15th, 2013? Maybe you were crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Maybe you were cheering on friends and loved ones in Copley Square, a mere hundred feet from the explosions. Maybe you were sitting in Lower dining hall as silence swept over the hundreds of kids who had been jumping around, rowdy and exuberant, just moments earlier.
The morning of April 15th started just like any other holiday. Eagles young and old, past and present, awoke with the excitement and anticipation that only Marathon Monday can bring. As peopled dawned their neon tank tops and maroon and gold everything, social media began to flood with joyful updates: the day had finally arrived. As we watched the runners go by, high-fived friends and strangers, and jumped in the race with roommates, everyone could be sure of one thing: There is nothing like this day. Only hours later, this same sentence had taken on a whole new meaning.
As news hit campus of the two explosions in downtown Boston, the Heights reeled to understand what was going on just down the road. Around Chestnut Hill, rumors swirled of future attacks and near misses as everyone frantically reached out to friends and family. For many of us, this was the first time having to send or receive texts saying, “Are you safe?” or “Please text me when you’re okay.” This frenzy went on for hours until we each had all of our eagles safe and accounted for – and then gathered to mourn for those who were not as fortunate.
By Monday evening, the chaotic scrambling had settled into a subdued air of reflection, and today the sun rose early to find a beautiful, still morning on the Heights. Students’ soft discussions flipped between what the past had delivered us and what the future would hold. Everyone is wondering, what comes next? Well, there are a couple of things that come next. Walks of honor and memory – including one that plans to cover the last five miles of the Marathon course – have already started to come together. Donations of money, blood and services are being accepted all over the area at local hospitals and organizations, including the Salvation Army, Mass General Hospital, the American Red Cross, and Children’s Hospital. Here on campus, multi-faith prayer services and healing masses are being held in honor of those affected. Because that’s what comes next: healing.
No matter how we to choose to go about doing it, one choice has already been made for us: we must keep moving forward. Much like the runners as they crossed mile 21, feeling like they couldn’t make it any farther, we have to take strength from what we have here. It’s times like these that we must remember that the people around us today are the same ones who inspired the 20,000+ people yesterday to push through Heartbreak Hill. So now we go on to tomorrow, carrying with us the memories from yesterday. First, the victims and their loved ones, whose lives were lost or forever changed by the events that occurred at the finish line. Second, the runners, whose incredible achievement should not be forgotten, especially in the wake of this tragedy. And finally, our city. Yesterday was not a day of weakness for Boston; it was a day in which this town embodied the hard work, dedication, and spirit that each of its runners brought to the course.
Today in class one of my professors asked us, “What does everyday leadership look like at a time like this?” And to that I say: it looks like the first responders, who raced to the scene despite the danger. It looks like the people who took in families, and lent cell phones and cars to those displaced. It looks like the runners, who ran the opposite direction to finish the Boston Marathon without the incentive of crossing the finish line or showing off their medal. And it looks like you. Because even now, when the moment is over and campus is quiet, each one of us can do something for the city that we all call home.