The tragic, uncivilized act of terror which took place in Boston on Monday has left us all shocked, saddened and angry. And, it should leave us determined to continue to live life as we want to live it in this country in defiance of those who wish to undermine our hope, our freedom, our optimism for the future. We grieve for those who have been killed, reach out in compassion and comfort to their families and to all of those who have been wounded. And, we are once again filled with awe and appreciation for those who have bravely and tirelessly done all that they can do to protect and to heal. May we learn from the courage and compassion shown in the last 48 hours.
So much has been written and spoken over the two days about the attack and I have found myself listening less and less to the endless news stories and reading the paper more quickly than I usually do. As the hours have gone by, one thought keeps coming to my mind and it is that thought that I want to write about. It is not about violence, terror and pain or even about the uplifting actions of the brave law enforcement and medical personnel. It is about love: the love of a city, the love of this city.
I don’t question for a moment that any city can inspire love and dedication among those who were born there or lived there. Hopefully, all of us feel a strong, inspiring connection with the place of our birth or the place we call home. But, I also believe that there are some cities which inspire a greater sense of connection: a pride, a uniqueness, a more intense sense of belonging. And, Boston is one of those cities.
If you’ve never been there, if you’ve never lived there, you might pick up some of that sense by listening to the incessant ramblings of Red Sox fans or picking up on the elitist academics who talk about the intellectual environment of the city. But, if you have lived there, and even more importantly, if you were born there, you know that it goes much deeper than that. To be a Bostonian means to believe without apology that you were truly privileged to call such a place home.
So, over the last couple of days, I’ve asked myself why we feel this way.
It is not because the city is perfect. While I was growing up, we saw more than our share of racism and bigotry in this “Athens of America”. There is poverty such as you would find in any city. On a lighter note, the accent can be maddening and the drivers can cause you to want to leave town immediately (but you wouldn’t be able to find your way since the roads are impossible to follow). Still, there is no place like Boston.
Maybe it’s the mixture of history and contemporary life. The “Freedom Trail” which features revolutionary war era graveyards and buildings winds its way through the middle of the main shopping district. Maybe it’s the beautiful views like the one from Storrow Drive coming out of town when you come out of a “s” shaped curve and find yourself for a moment looking right down the Charles River. Maybe it’s the many institutions which are the “oldest” this and the “first” that that are all over the city from the world’s oldest subway to the nation’s oldest public school (yay Boston Latin!) to the oldest ballpark still being used in the Major Leagues. Maybe it’s the way everything has to be just a little different than the rest of the civilized world- candlepin bowling, milk shakes made without ice cream to name just two. Maybe it’s because one of the greatest attractions in the city is taking a ride on the Swan Boats in the Public Gardens, the most “low tech” and least exciting ride you will take in the 21st century but one you will never forget.
Why do I love this city so deeply?
Maybe it is all of these things.
Maybe it’s one I haven’t mentioned.
But, maybe it just is because it is home.
That’s the most important reason of all.