While some people were at the finish line as the bombs exploded at the 2013 Boston Marathon, others were partying on roof decks in Allston. People’s perspectives on the memory of that day are relative to how close in both proximity and emotion they were to the tragedy.
As the city of Boston and the Boston University community prepare for the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, people are stuck between mourning or celebrating this Monday. However, no one is obligated to either attitude, because everyone has a different understanding, experience and definition of #BostonStrong.
When tragedies happen, people say the best way to cope is by carrying on the day like normal. What makes the Marathon anniversary tricky, however, is that a “normal” Marathon Monday is a cheerful occasion. Some say sacrificing the spirit of the annual festivity this Monday would feed into the terrorists’ goal of instilling fear in us, while others say carrying on like normal would be disrespectful.
While the city will elicit a plethora of different reactions this Monday, no one is obligated to one attitude. Everyone has their own experience, understanding and definition of #BostonStrong and, despite how different they may be, none of them are incorrect.
People may interpret #BostonStrong differently but, at the same time, each definition shares the common thread of a unified community and is composed of so much more than just a reaction to a tragedy. Although this catchphrase gave the city a symbol of all we endured together, this sense of community existed long before last April.
Nothing can undermine the generosity of the human spirit exhibited in Boston after last April’s events. However, this city didn’t need a terrorist attack to become #BostonStrong because this city has always been a close-knit, unified community.
In a Monday article by journalist Chris Faraone, “Beyond the ‘Boston Strong’ Listicle,” he cites 15 ways in which Boston has proven its strength since last April. Among these feats is the election of a young, promising new mayor, as well as the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries and late night hours on the MBTA system.
Although Boston demonstrated a great amount of compassion in the wake of last year’s tragedy, such virtue is not limited to Boston citizens. Rather, this tendency of humans to help one another is innate. These acts of compassion from last year need to be recognized as not just acts of Bostonians, but as validations of the humankind’s noble spirit demonstrated all over the world.
Look at the way people came together to help others during the weeks of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Whether it was sheltering those whose homes had been destroyed or leaving power outlets in front of buildings, the innate goodness shines through disaster. And on a smaller scale, look at how the BU community mourned together when the recent tragedies of the deaths of Diego Montes and Kevin Lee had the power to touch each one of us, regardless of our relationship with him.
Overall, people are inherently more kindhearted than we think. #BostonStrong should not just be used as a way to focus on how Boston pushed through the heartbreak of a bombing, but rather a focus on a community’s ability to perform miracles of generosity for people they don’t even know.
Yet, this hashtag does not have to just be about a community being fused together by sadness, as dwelling on the disaster undermines Boston’s other exhibitions of camaraderie. We cannot forget all the happy things that bring this city together time and again. Before last year, the Boston Marathon was a way for BU students to feel a part of the larger Boston community, which they are often sheltered from within the restraints of Commonwealth Avenue. Besides the marathon, we all celebrated in Kenmore Square together when the Red Sox won the World Series last October. And who could forget the joys that unite us at Hempfest every year?
The meaning behind #BostonStrong is symbolic of the sentiments of the human community at large. Although #BostonStrong spawned from the calamity at the Boston Marathon, its meaning does not have to be restricted to overcoming the fear the Tsarnaev’s, the alleged bombers, tried to inflict on us.