Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Memory Stirs…

There are just some places that are hard to go back to.

These places can be physical locations on Earth; or virtual places, websites and televised collections of pixels and such; or pockets of memory.

You can drive past certain buildings or signs and wish you hadn’t. You can bring up a webpage in your browser and wish you hadn’t. “A memory stirs…” and you can wish it hadn’t – and wish it would just sink back down below the surface and stay put, thanks.

I used to work in that office building. We took an walk through that park. He grew up in that town. I’d rather not watch that young singing sensation again. Oi, that was an embarrassing moment – well, at least after tripping over that cord, I didn’t hit my head on something.

Indeed, dear reader, if you’re conjuring up examples of your own places best not conjured … I bet the great majority of them are relatively small matters, in the grand sweep of human civilization. Whether or not they were small to us at the time – and chances are, if external things trigger strong internal reactions, they weren’t – it’s unlikely that they registered on the Richter scale outside our spheres of awareness.

For most of New England, though (and because we New Englanders are who we are, we assume that this also implies “for most of the inhabitants of planet Earth”), Boylston Street in Boston is a very much less trivial place to go back to, today.

And most of New England wasn’t even there. We may have been watching on television, a year ago this afternoon, as two homemade bombs went off, not far from the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three people and injuring two hundred and sixty others. We may have heard about the explosions second-hand, from a friend or a news anchor.

But lots of folks were. Actual Marathon runners. Spectators, along the street and in the bleachers. Police officers, whose activity for so many years seemed to be merely standing and keeping the enthusiastic spectators from inching too far out onto the street as runners passed by. Race volunteers, who usually only dealt with medical issues like dehydration and exhaustion. TV reporters, who usually only raised their voices in response to a Kenyan or Ethiopian runner finally separating him- or herself from the pack.

In the space of 12 seconds, last April 15th, the Boston Marathon finish line – heretofore merely paint on the street – became more than a historic landmark. Since eleven minutes before three in the afternoon that day, it has been an image that has brought back memories of violence, and chaos, and injury, and outrage, to a great many of us – whether we were nearby or not.

I’m not sure what it would be like to have been there … and then to try to revisit the site – whether today or next Monday, or any day really. Last year, for some curious and unknown reason, I knew of an unusually large number of friends who were running the Marathon. Some were running in the name of charitable causes; some were running to see if they could do it; some were running because it was Boston, and you gotta run Boston if you’re serious about this sport. I think some had already finished at 2:49 PM. Some were not too far from the blasts. Some hadn’t made it to Boston yet. Many, thanks to where on the course they were at the time, never even made it to the finish line; they were diverted elsewhere, because at the time no one knew whether any more loud bangs were coming. It took awhile that day, but they all did check in to let us know they were okay.

To my knowledge, none of them were right there. “And yet,” the local news anchors and the national sports reporters would intone (probably already have), with great emotion and Don LaFontaine-ish-ness … “we all were right there.”

A few nights ago, as I screened my copy of the 2013 Boston Red Sox official World Series DVD, it got to the chapter wherein the Sox had started the season relatively well, and were about to play their traditional Patriots Day / Marathon Day morning home game. Fade from black … to a shot of Boylston Street from beyond the finish line, on Marathon Day 2013, just before the explosions.

And I looked away, briefly, and reflexively – even though I hadn’t come close to being there. The, quote, scene of the crime, unquote.

I think I have all kinds of respect for the people who actually were there and will be back there next Monday regardless. To differing degrees for each of them, it’ll be a challenging place to to go back to.

We were all there.” Well, no, we all weren’t. For those who really had been, I imagine that the mere posting of new and commemorative Facebook profile- and cover-photos (like I did this morning) won’t be quite enough to settle this matter.


April 15, 2014 - Posted by | current events | , , , , ,

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