Running Scared

5491796838_9e91366626Today was Patriots’ Day in Boston, a day marked by its predictability and routineness. A day that begins April break for many Boston school children; the heralding of spring; a home game for the Red Sox, sometimes a win; and always the running of the Boston Marathon. In fact some people know today first as Marathon Monday, and second for the holiday commemorating the Battle of Concord and Lexington, fought in 1775, marking the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

Today things changed.

I’m thankful that I took my kids away for April Break. Away from usually safe, predictable, routine Patriots’ Day down to our Nation’s Capital, where just about anything can happen. Yet here I sit, feeling safe and unthreatened while I watch news reports of fellow Bostonians feeling shaken and upset.

Two bombs were detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon today and at least three people are confirmed dead so far.

For me, the mere act of training to run a 5k (3.1 mi) was a major accomplishment; someone endeavoring to run 26.2 is downright lunacy. Imagine pursuing that goal but then the insult and shattering carnage of having a bomb explode as you near the finish line—and in many cases—preventing you from crossing it. That would be more than I could process.

I work closely with a bunch of women around the world who know I live in or near Boston so even before I heard the news, I received a number of texts and Facebook messages asking if I was alright. Of course, I was and am alright, I was enjoying a day at the National Zoo with my two kids and 13yo nephew but as soon as we got back and were near a TV, I tuned in to hear what happened.

My kids, only 4 and 7, watched the reports with me. Like me, they couldn’t really comprehend what they were seeing. When I explained to them that the images were from Boston, “our Boston,” they still appeared confused. We’ve stood in our town—which is just about the half-way mark of the Marathon—every Patriots’ Day for most of their lives, cheering on the runners as they stream past us, hundreds upon thousands of them, for the better part of an hour. Yet still they couldn’t quite process seeing the runners of that marathon on the national news.

When the reporter went on to talk about other “soft target” bombings in the US over the past two decades, most notably the one at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics resulting in six casualties, my 4yo turned to me and said:

“Oh, only six people died? That’s not too bad, Mommy”

That’s not too bad?! Only six people dying from a bomb explosion as an act of malice isn’t too bad?! What are these times we’re living in?! What is this era of terror we’re raising our kids in? When nightly reports of bombings and shootings and school kids or movie goers or marathon runners or spectators getting killed and only three or six, or 12 or 28 isn’t bad…is this our new normal?

I realize we can’t shelter our kids for ever. We can’t shut their eyes or close their ears or silence the media’s mouths, pretending this isn’t the world we live in but can’t we hold on to their innocence for just a little longer?

Must everything we do and let them do be shrouded with caution, and concern and distrust?

Someday (soon), I hope I can let my daughter walk the half mile down a sylvan path to school on her own and not worry. I hope we can stand in a crowd at a public event and not worry. I hope we can board an airplane or ride public transportation or visit famous monuments and not worry…but with each additional incident like today’s, comes more than just human casualties, they kill our innocence; abandoning the fight response and honing the flight response.

I close this with a prayer for all of the innocence, and lives and dreams and memories shattered by today’s Boston bombings. I hope someday soon we can all slow down and stop running scared.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heather Kelly
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 00:37:42

    I still find this so unbelievable. This is the first time that we too, have chosen to be away for marathon monday–and I was a sad this morning to not be handing out oranges at the halfway mark. Twice I ran bits of this race with my brother–once up heartbreak hill, where he ended up dropping out, and once, I ran the last two miles with him when he flew through the finish line.

    I cannot comprehend what happened in our city today.

    Boston has always felt like a safe city to me–not as scary and violent of other cities that I’ve lived near or visited–like the Philadelphia of our youth, or Chicago.

    I am angry and sad and shell-shocked. And glad that we happened to travel away this year. I don’t know that I could explain to my kids what was happening in our city today. I need to digest it first myself. I chose not to let them watch the news–since I don’t want them to be fearful of their city. It is not something that I can bear to think would ever be repeated. Of course, my thirteen-year-old did watch with us–solemnly, not really understanding what it all meant.

    Do any of us? This is what we thought life would be like post-911 in America. I’m not ready to accept this violence as the norm.

    Reply

    • growingmuses
      Apr 16, 2013 @ 16:17:25

      I get a lot of surprised comments about how much of the current events I share with my kids but I have a masters in journalism and I deeply believe in knowledge as power. I struggle with both wanting to keep my children sheltered and innocent as well as educatedly cautious and informed. I openly discussed and allowed them to watch news coverage of the Japanese Tsunami, the Newtown shooting and now the Boston bombings. I’m sure many parents judge me a lesser parent for doing so but it’s in my nature to be curious and to be honest. I’d rather my kids hear about and discuss these events with me, in an abbreviated format and with as accurate facts as possible than to get hyped up from partial information through the grapevine or less reliable sources (disclaimer: this is not validating US news outlets as credible sources; I always try to fact gather from multiple outlets).

      Reply

  2. Ines Vrenko Perusko
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 02:06:52

    What an amazing essay, Kyla! Following the events from practically the first moment from the other side of the world (Zagreb, Croatia) and feeling Boston as my second home town, I couldn’t stop asking myself: “What is this crazy world we love in? And what are the messages that we can send to our kids when events like this occur?…”
    Not ready to accept violence as a norm, just as another comment before me said.

    Reply

    • growingmuses
      Apr 16, 2013 @ 16:09:51

      I know, I agree that I am not ready to accept it as the norm yet either and when I look at places like Israel and Syria and Sudan, I’m thankful that I have no idea what I’m even talking about when I make such generalizations but we are definitely living in wary times and even that is upsetting to me. It’s not our kids that we don’t trust to do things like walk over to a friends house or be at a playground alone or walk to school, it’s the uncommon crazies that keep rearing their ugly heads and making us suspect the common man. Thanks for keeping Boston in your prayers and thoughts and heart.

      Reply

  3. slightlywonky
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 07:30:19

    Great post, Kyla. (unusual for me: I’m glad that you were away!) I decided that I was too lazy to go downtown to see it. I wish everyone was too lazy and was away at those horrible moments. Like everyone, I’m just so shocked and sad. Boston used to feel so safe. The Boston Marathon used to be so joyous. Sad, sad, sad…

    Reply

    • growingmuses
      Apr 16, 2013 @ 16:05:54

      I know, but then again, so did going to the movies, or to elementary school for that matter. I fear we now live in an age of unsafe. I wish it weren’t the case, doesn’t every parent want to bring a child into a safe a peaceable kingdom? We all have to take calculated risks and keep living life full of optimism and courage and hope and kindness. I just wish things like watching people cross the finish line at a marathon wasn’t among the activities falling into the “risk” category…I’m so thankful you were feeling lazy. I’ll raise my glass to that!

      Reply

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