When the bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, I watched in horror from two small televisions that were mounted in the bar of the restaurant I was working at in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Even though I was 3,000 miles away, the bang of the bombs, that killed three and injured hundreds, left me feeling as shaken as if I had been at the finish line myself.
I had just been in Boston a few days before the marathon to confirm my acceptance into Boston University as a graduate student in the College of Communication. On my quick trip to the city, in the days leading up to the Boston Marathon, it was sunny and warm. Gentle breezes blew at my back and through the blossoming cherry trees that lined the streets of Back Bay. Crowds of people packed into the Public Garden and Boston Common. Over at Copley, I watched the city prepare for the Marathon with the construction of bleacher seats and the hanging of banners. Having briefly lived in Boston before, I was enjoying walking around and reacquainting myself with the city that I was planning on moving to that fall.
So as I was watching the devastating news about the explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line, I felt like I was watching destruction happen to my own streets and in my own neighborhoods. I was sad, angry, confused, worried but still, it might sound a little crazy, the disaster only made me want to move to Boston sooner. Being in California felt too distant for me to properly mourn for the East Coast city.
In the days following the bombing and the arrest of the Tsarnaev brothers, people would ask me if I was afraid to move to a city for school that had suffered such a violent tragedy. I was anything but fearful. If anything, I was more inspired to return to the city and become part of the community that people all over the world were recognizing as “Boston Strong.” I was proud to call myself a Californian who was moving to Boston to start her life as a journalism student at a school that was gaining distinguished recognition for their coverage of the bombing. I wanted to jump on a plane to Boston as soon as I could and begin my studies at Boston University and spend all my time learning and absorbing and experiencing and contributing to the rebuilding of the student morale that was about to be my peers.
But I wasn’t the only one who was inspired by the strength and heroism that the people of Boston were radiating on to the world. In the days that followed the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing, something exceptional happened. A jolt of support for Boston was felt internationally via the news, the Internet and social media. From our Buzzfeed apps on our smartphones and our CNN anchors on our flat screens we were learning about the random acts of kindness that people all around the city were contributing to their community peers. People were opening up their homes to displaced people affected by the bombs. One restaurant was advertising free food, bathrooms and electricity. Heroes weren’t just defined by men in uniform, but also by strangers standing next to you.
And people were asking me if I was scared to move to Boston? No way. I knew I was moving to a city that would take care of me, even in the darkest of times.
It’s now been a full year since the bombing and another Marathon has been run, and I must say, the strength that many people found so admirable about Boston in a time of crisis, has not faded. What I thought might be a somber week was one that was actually filled with fun and excitement. It was a warm, sunny and excited week as we welcomed the runners of the marathon and their families.
This year, it was exciting to see my friends, my classmates and the people of Boston bubble with excitement, pride and optimism about the Marathon. It’s hard to ignore some of the great things that have come from disaster. A couple of friends of mine, who don’t happen to be the best runners, rode the bike version of the Marathon. Seeing pictures of them at the finish line made me so proud because riding the bike version of the marathon was a way that they could honor the legacy of the bombing victims in a way that was more fun for them, and their big smiles in the pictures told me that the long ride was worth every pedal.
I’ve got to say, there’s something in the marathon air that’s got me feeling inspired. Again.
Kate Hofberg is a graduate student in the College of Communication. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.