A year ago I got a text from my editor from The Daily Free Press that read, “Two bombs went off at the Marathon finish line. Can you check it out?” I had no idea what he was talking about. I gathered my recorder, phone and wallet and raced to Copley Square. I got as close to the finish line as I could before getting turned away by police. “Now what do I do,” I thought.
Little did I know that 2:49 p.m. on Patriots’ Day last year would change my life. Not only did I grow up as a journalist covering the story as it unfolded over several months, but I also grew as a person. I was just a freshman finding my way through college, figuring out my interests and aspirations. Hell, I’m still doing that. But now, because of the bombings, I am more confident in my reporting and in myself. However, this whole experience isn’t just about me, as it has everything to do with my peers at The FreeP and, even more, those affected by the bombings.
We at The FreeP really became a news team the week following the Marathon, with reporters and photographers dedicating extra time and energy to attending press conferences, memorials and court proceedings. At major media events, The FreeP was accepted as a legitimate news source, not just as a student publication. During that week, several news agencies called us for information and we were recognized for our knowledge of new developments in the case.
However, during my time spent covering the story, I completely forgot to reflect and really understand the significance of what exactly happened. As a journalist, we are taught to be objective and remove ourselves from the story. I followed this principle and reported the facts of what happened for months after the bombings, without any emotional attachment. Recently, with the anniversary approaching, I was no longer involved in the coverage at The FreeP and, for the first time, was able to completely immerse myself in the feelings and emotions of the situation. I’m not one for the #BostonStrong trend, but I have never seen a city come together like Boston did. The memorial that was held for the victims on April 15 helped me see the larger picture and understand why I do what I do.
The day of the Boston Marathon bombing anniversary started as overcast and rainy, as if Mother Nature was reflecting the mood of that day. I hopped on the T headed to work, already dreading the emotional Facebook statuses and tweets from my peers who it seemed only posted them for the “likes” or “favorites.” I started my workday reading the two-part series byBoston Globe journalist David Abel, “For Richard family, loss and love.” An hour later, I sat at my desk in silence, nearly in tears by the end of it. I know Abel is a remarkable reporter and his writing style is beautiful, but this was the first time that I actually contemplated Martin Richard’s family and everything they have gone through in the past year. I thought I knew everything there was about the Marathon bombings but, while trying to remain objective in my reporting, I had overlooked the human emotions that came along with this tragedy.
After reading the articles, as the memorial started later that day, I knew I would react strongly to the touching words shared by the speakers. Patrick Downes, a survivor of the bombings, gave a moving speech that was short, sweet and full of sentiment. I started tearing up. When former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino hobbled on to the stage and spoke with clarity and pride for his city, I felt a few tears trickle down my cheek. Once Renese King began singing the song “For Good” from the musical “Wicked,” I lost it. That song has always been special to me and to hear it now, with several survivors, important city officials and the Richard family in the crowd, it finally hit me: the emotional toll that had been building up for the past year had to come out.
I didn’t know what the mood would be like in Boston this Marathon Monday. But, after the city and I received its closure on the anniversary last week, Patriots’ Day was a day of celebration — something of which it has and always will be. Although it is impossible to forget about those affected by the bombings last year, I know this city will continue to be resilient. And, for this, I will always be grateful for my experience over the past year as a young journalist and will always keep in mind the lessons I learned, especially that of reflection, as I continue to grow and write in the city of Boston.
Kyle Plantz was Fall 2013 City Editor of The Daily Free Press and will be Fall 2014 Editor-in-Chief. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.