I debated for a long time even writing anything about the one-year anniversary of what is now infamously known as “The Boston Marathon Bombings.” What more can possibly be said? Terror threats have been analyzed and debated for this year’s race. Emails have started collecting in my inbox about safety for Monday and what items not to bring while cheering on the runners. My university held a memorial service last night for the graduate student killed at the finish line. After all that, I didn’t think I would have anything to contribute to the conversation.
Then I saw the flowers placed outside the university chapel as I walked home from the library, and I decided that it just might be worth something to sit down and write.
A year ago, an alter of flowers and candles and notes began cascading down the side of the statue in Marsh Plaza. People tied ribbons and roses into the police barricades down Newbury Street. Candles lit the streets and the parks. It’s a hallmark of tragedy in the city, a beautiful and arresting tribute of remembrance for the victims of terrible things. The flowers always build up and pour into the sidewalks until the air around the memorials drips with a sweet rottenness. It’s a smell you can’t forget.
In truth, I was asleep in my room when the bombs went off. I woke up to knocking on my door and frantic voices in the hallway of my house. My phone had a whole list of missed texts and phone calls from friends and family all over the country. Since that day, I’ve met friends who were on the same block as the pressure cookers and who couldn’t stand loud, sudden noises for months afterward. Stories were posted anonymously online by students in my own school who bravely confessed that they were afraid to go outside for days because their religion made them somehow dangerous to the rabid speculators tearing up social media.
I woke up, and despite everything that everyone I knew told me, I was unafraid. Like some automatic instinct, I grabbed a camera and headed outside.
The following is a handful of pictures taken that afternoon and evening that have never been posted until now. I kept them tucked away in a subfolder on my computer, because the grief of the moment was not something to be paraded around, and I wasn’t walking around to prove any kind of point about courage. There were enough images at the time of the military in the Boston Common and the bloodstains on the pavement. There will always be enough of those photos. Instead, I tried to captured all the things that were not right about that day, all of the irony of heavy security against the backdrop of a city silent but defiant. I’ve captured a lot of these same scenes on tranquil afternoons, and the difference is still jarring.
These things I cannot stress enough: The sunset was breath-taking, the police presence outside of the glamorous stores was completely unnerving, and the quiet was absolute.
Yet, in the sadness, beauty was there. Solidarity flooded the internet. People went about their normal lives the next day and refused to be intimidated by violence.
In the tragedy, there was life, and there still is. But first, there was the day that Boston stood still.
Peace be with those afflicted by violence. No matter the form, no matter the circumstances, no matter the intensity, no matter the place. Peace be with you.