Thursday night I went to bed wondering if the release of the Boston Marathon bomber suspects’ photos would lead to some tips or arrests. When I woke up early Friday I saw a dozen texts from the MIT alert system on my phone, and realized that the first step on the bombers’ night and day of violence had been the apparently unprovoked murder of Sean Collier, an MIT Police officer, as he sat in his car next to the iconic Stata Center. I spent a gut-clenching day alone at home, eerily quiet and warm outside, waiting for Amy and the girls to return home from Vermont and to see what would happen in our locked-down city. The end of the chase–but just the end of the beginning of finding out why this happened–was in a boat in a Watertown backyard, about five miles from our house.
And now, you might expect to see speculation about how “the healing” will begin for the city. Interestingly, there were several headlines before the craziness and lockdown of Friday to the effect of, city seeks healing, Red Sox return will help healing, etc. In fact, Thursday night I went to a book talk by Globe sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy at the fabulous Waban Library that was, in effect, a lay healing ceremony for shocked Bostonians.
Since Friday night, the discussion has been more about the potential impact of these attacks on daily life in the city (or country), the legal status of the suspect in custody, and continued concern for the four dead and many wounded resulting from the attacks. I’ve been relieved in a way at this “healing” hiatus, but I know that inevitably the city and country will move forward. The Marathon next year will be bigger than ever, and I’ll admit to getting a Boston Strong shirt myself as part of this tidal force pulling the living and those only terrified by this week, and not bereft, towards a hopeful future.
But I feel so deeply for the families of those four people killed, and for those who will bear the physical scars of this attack, because the healing and unity that we collectively want after this attack are not really available to them. In a truly bizarre bit of synchronicity, I was reminded of this just this weekend, when my brother’s former fiancee came for a long-planned visit with her young daughter. For us, staying in close touch with her has been a very important part of our lives since losing Aaron. It has been a real blessing all around that we have maintained this connection, even as she has moved on to marry and have a child, and it is a tribute to her courage that she came up Saturday morning, a few hours after the all-clear released the city from its homes. It was wonderful to visit with her and connect her daughter to her “cousins.”
But it hurts to twist your heart back onto the should-have-been path of family visits with her and my missing brother. Even in what must be a best-case scenario, 12 years out from the loss (everyone basically healthy, material needs satisfied, all dug mostly from their psychological holes), this vital connection also plugs our fingers back into the outlet of raw emotion and longing that hasn’t let up at all in the intervening years. So when I think of the families of those lost this past week, I think of the incremental gap between their “healing”–may G-d grant it to them–and that of the city and country around them. The Globe has a good column today on just such an experience, that of the owner of a cafe in Back Bay who lost her daughter on 9/11. I hope that a year, five years out, they can find people who are willing to sit with them and talk about their missing loved ones, and simply focus on what this week and their loss has meant to them.