Monday, April 15, 2013

1 42.195 km with Keith Haring on Boylston Street

I figured that I might as well put words to the page if I'm going to just sit around looking at Twitter and not doing my work -- at the very least this is artistic, to some extent.  This might not be the most constructive thing or reach any real "point" but it is more writing than I have done today -- 140-characters-at-a-time notwithstanding.

One of my favorite features of the Boston Marathon is the ability to track the runners.  This meant that for me -- and a bunch of my peers who were cooped-up reading the writing of crusty old guys instead of out getting drunk at BC, BU, or Northeastern -- we were able to feel some level of excitement for our friends who were running the marathon this year; even if only through a Google Maps portal, we could marvel at their accomplishments as they went hour after hour through Framingham, Wellesley, Newton, and right into Boston.

I was sitting in the Senate office with Andrew pretending to do work. In reality though I wasn't reading the aforementioned crusty old guys; I was watching the little Keith Haring-style icons pump their arms and legs across eastern Massachusetts, over the hills, along the Charles, past crowds of their friends and family.

I switched the to the live feed of the finish line when I saw that Jessie was nearing Copley Square with Riley keeping pace behind her.  At best, I figured, I could get a screenshot of her crossing the finish line since I had decided at the last minute not to go -- which sucks because there is no sweeter image in your head running down the last 1/2 mile with Cee-Cee, with Jen, with Jessie, with Alden, with whoever.  Well, I guess one sweeter image would be turning that last corner and seeing the finish line -- but still.  The point is that they do 26 miles on their own -- the least we could do is offer them our spirit for the last half-mile.

Disbelief replaced relief, though.  Disbelief that the Twitter feed on the side of the page had changed so quickly from people praising their friends' efforts, sharing InstaGram photos, and posting times. 

3:36:14

3:41:49

3:45:02

#BostonMarathon explosion heard near finish line

3:53:32

Explosions heard at finish line of #BostonMarathon

3:54:11

Grossly unsettling.  Internally disturbing.  Defying all sense of how and who and what should happen next, a complete rupture to the narrative.  There wasn't a jubilant scene but instead havoc and panic, police cars parking on the finish line and spectators darting away from the site of the explosion.  Runners streaming in confused, exhausted, and deprived of the jubilation that everyone is entitled to after 26.2 miles of feet-on-pavement ceaseless motion.  Everything pixelated and distorted.

Already late for work, I scurried down Professor's Row and into the gymnasium to sit behind a security desk and do work -- again, lies.  I sat down, plugged in my Macbook, opened Google Chrome, opened Facebook, the Associated Press, and two Twitter tabs and began retweeting.  How quickly this had all changed from waiting for the perfect instant to command-shift-4 the moment of triumph to going between police and EMT scanners, Reuters, Anonymous, and Boston Globe updates.  Thankfully, my friend, Alvaro, started a hashtag for all the Tufts students to coordinate the locations of their friends who were volunteers, runners, etc.: #TuftsRunners.  It was remarkable, absolutely, the speed with which Tufts students were together and tweeting back and forth the names and locations of missing-then-found loved ones, fact-checking and cross-referencing reports, and keeping everyone calm.

But even three hours later it's still all so unresolved -- and I don't mean the why and the who.  I can imagine those things, to be honest.  A right-wing terrorist, someone whose country has been defiled by US (cultural) imperialism, or any of the "usual suspects" (whatever that might mean when we look at the data and don't just stoke Islamophobia; I'm looking at you, New York Post).

The more irksome and pervasively disconcerting component to this is just how deprived and robbed and cheated I feel like so many people were, the runners and the spectators.  What were the statistics on the day?  

Jessie was .4 miles from the finish line.  Jen just over a half-mile.  Cee-Cee only a mile away.  Where is their re-run, or do-over, or chance to run those last 2,000 ft with their friends and loved ones cheering them on, elated at the feat of human endurance that was just achieved?  There isn't one. There isn't one and that really hurts.

Or how to square the reality that being one of the pictures in the news or being safely at home watching it all filter through was a stroke of luck -- that the T was delayed, you missed the Joey, or your friend pulled you to Newbury St. instead of Boylston to avoid the crowd.  That street corner is so tangible, touchable, and remembered; it was shopping with your bros; it was exploring Boston as a freshman; it was Winter Bash and where you took your family when they visited.  Any of us could have been on that street corner and so many of us were just feet away, saved by a lucky decision to turn left instead of right.

And I can't help but think about the kids in other parts of the world who deal with this even more routinely than we do here.  The drones that never leave, the explosions that kill 37 and injure 140, or the ever-present reality that each embrace might be the last -- how must it be to live like that.

This is just a reminder, I suppose, that violence, senseless or sensible (if that is a thing), doesn't need to seem rational, coherent, doesn't need to make sense.  It doesn't have to square with our vision of what should or shouldn't happen. It doesn't, in all honesty, need to be anything more than what it is: violence -- violence that injures, violence that hurts, and memories that last.

And meanwhile, the icons that represented where my friends were on the marathon course just keep going -- all nondescript bodies with arms and legs pumping, tirelessly, frozen at 42.195 kilometers but still having never crossed the finish line.

Made this on imgflip.com. Original post here


All of y'all are heroes.

Say when and where and I will toss on my Reebok running shoes and crush that last mile with you, any of you.

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