I wasn't going to write about the marathon. It's not the topic of my blog, and frankly it's still so fresh I didn't think I could. This Rolling Stone cover changed my mind. It makes me sick to think I'm giving them more publicity, but it's so offensive that I just can't sit quietly and let it pass me by.
If you've never celebrated a Marathon Monday it's hard to explain why exactly it's so important to us. Even writing this, if you’ve never been I’m not sure you can understand. The city shuts down around the marathon. People take off of work, colleges cancel class, and the entire city convenes along the race route. It is the single biggest event we have all year, and the excitement around it is like Christmas mixed with the superbowl and then topped off with the 4th of July. We wake up early, eat good breakfasts, and track progress on TV until that first runner starts to get close. The second that first runner comes within the city limits we grab snacks and camelbacks and bolt down to the route to scream our heads off. We cheer for hours. It doesn't matter who it is, we cheer. American, Kenyan, Canadian, French, we cheer. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, we cheer. We cheer for the runners, the walkers, hell, we even cheer for the cops working the event. We cheer because every time a person crosses the finish line it's a victory. They may be running for a personal best, for cancer research, or even to push their disabled son a full 26.2 miles, but everyone is “winning” at the marathon. As a city we hope that everyone reaches their goal. It is perhaps one of the few times that there are no teams or “us” versus “them.” We are all on the same team, one human race, one Boston.
I was at grad school when I heard that some sick sick individuals had attempted to break this unity. A girl sitting next to me in the student lounge started screaming as she saw the first twitter photo of the carnage at the finish line, and realized her fiancé was there. The two of us watched in horror as the events unfolded, and tried desperately to get in touch with everyone we know. After an hour she did finally get on the phone with him, but the questions “are you ok? Are you in one piece?” took on a horrifically literal connotation.
I didn’t go home that night. My best friend insisted that Pat and I stay with her in a suburb while these psychos were on the loose. We ate dinner and made nervous jokes, but all the while CNN was running in the background. We watched the videos over, and over, and over again. When I finally did go home, the city looked like a post apocalyptic wasteland. The actual lockdown hadn’t begun, but no one wanted to be outside. The normal buzz of the city fell silent, and cops outnumbered civilians on every street. I had to walk past no fewer than 10 cops armed with assault rifles to get into my apartment complex, and while this should have made me feel safe, it only made me feel less at ease. I’m sure you’re familiar with the story, but in the days that followed the city went into lockdown. We watched transfixed as the most incredible acts of fate, or God, led to the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Endless discussions were had about what would have happened if the men had gone to a different gas station, if the holdup had never happened, if that gas station’s credit card reader had just been working, or if that Watertown resident hadn’t gone out to check his boat. But all of those things DID happen, and we got him.
Then the most incredible thing happened. Despite the bombers’ best efforts to break us, we did manage to hold on to the hope and spirit of the marathon. After the man hunt the faces of the bombers could have been plastered over the city to fuel revenge and hate, but instead the face of Jeff Bauman took center stage. We chose to see the strength of the survivor who identified the bombers to the FBI, and he became a symbol of hope that we, as a city, could recover. When I think about the marathon bombings, the bomber’s faces don’t stare at me with blank emotionless eyes. I think of Jeff Bauman *walking* with his two prosthetic legs on the ice at the Stanley cup finals. I think of my friend Mike reporting from the scene about people running in to help the injured. I think about the "Boston Strong" campaign and the incredible sense of unity there was in the city. I think of the positive things that happened, and it gives me hope that the good vastly outweighs the bad.
The tiny triumph in this tragedy is that the faces of the bombers seemed destined for obscurity. By choosing to focus on the survivors, we were choosing not to let the bombers live on in infamy. Now, the August issue of Rolling Stone is taking away that choice. Looking out at us from every news stand and supermarket checkout line will be the slightly grainy image of a tousled haired teenager who looks more like a rock star than a mass murderer. It’s not ok. It’s not ok to paint the bomber as an angel who fell from grace, and it is certainly not ok to hijack our pain for magazine sales. I hope the entire state of Massachusetts refuses to pick up your August issue, Rolling Stone. I promise I will never buy any of your magazines again.