Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 259 of 365: And We Run On

My old high school friend is running for the second time, alongside her fiancé -- a man who had waited just feet from the first bomb, but decided to grab something to eat since his fiancée was going a lot slower than expected. She was at Heartbreak Hill when the blasts went off. Had she not been addling by a recent knee injury, she probably would've crossed the finish line around the time the bombs went off.

My friend from ice hockey is also running for the second time. He was a quarter of a mile away from the finish line when the bombs went off. He was just rounding out onto Mass Ave when the runners were stopped.

After the shock of everything wore down, I signed up for the Ashland Half Marathon. I chose that half marathon specifically because it took place where the original Boston Marathon started (before it was moved a few miles back to Hopkinton). There was a knee-jerk response in all of us to take in what happened and downright stubbornly decide to keep running.

There's an article floating around talking about how flawed Boston Strong is. And they do have a point: too many people use it as a xenophobic type of chant. And yet more people have turned the saying -- and in turn, the event itself -- into a commodity, something you can buy and sell just as easily as a Red Sox cap. The writer says that we narrow in on this chant to the expense of everything else that happens in this city: as if the problems that plague any metropolitan area is enough to invalidate the saying.

At the end of the day, people will fall into two categories: those who get it, and those who don't. And those who don't will never be able to comprehend just what such a little saying means. The same way we all clamoured around Never Forget -- not because we genuinely needed a reminder to remember the events, not because we wanted our politicians to use it as a trump card when they wanted certain legislation or decisions made, but because words give our pain, our frustrations, our confusions a voice. The same way clinging to lyrics in a love song, or reciting a quote from a movie or book, or simply writing down what is bothering us changes the way we experience the event. It becomes a little more tangible and a little easier to process. In two words, we reminded ourselves that we have a sense of unity, that we are resilient, and, quite frankly, there are others who get it, too. There are other people who comprehend the absurdly complex array of emotions that come with something like this.

And yes, there'll be people hawking Boston Strong t-shirts for pure profit. There'll be people using Boston Strong as a way to further their sports agenda. There'll be people who toss the saying around like any million other platitudes as some type of trump card. The same way there will always be people who abuse charity, take advantage of the genuine, and exploit tragedies to their benefit. To me, that's not a good enough excuse to dismiss Boston Strong. That's not a good enough of an excuse to turn to those who were affected in a way they could never have predicted and go, "This is nothing more than an insipid hashtag for Twitter and Instagram."

Because it's not. And for many, it never will be.

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