One of the towns I cover in my journalism job, Wellesley, has an old Boston Marathon tradition–as old as the Boston Marathon itself, according to some sources–The Scream Tunnel. Dozens of students turn out and cheer on runners outside of Wellesley College, screaming so loud they have had reports from marathoners they can hear it from a mile away. Some of the runners I have met say these cheers give them some energy and strength to push a little further. Something which, as a non-runner, I am not really sure I understood.
Tuesday night, both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert opened their shows with a few words about Boston following the marathon bombing that took place the day before. While Colbert’s intro was decidedly funnier–he pulled up a few stock Boston gags to great, but also very encouraging effect–it was Jon Stewart’s that I was thinking about this morning. Because, of all the out-of-state coverage of the incident, he was one of the first people who really got the story, at least as I have seen it.
“I’m just going to say this to Boston: Thank you, thank you for once again, in the face of gross humanity, inspiring and solidifying my belief in humanity and the people of this country,” Stewart said at the opening of April 16’s episode of the Daily Show. “It’s a hell of a city you’ve got going on.”
Stewart went on to call the relationship Boston and New York have a “sibling rivalry.” Anyone who has had a sibling knows what this is like: we will poke, prode, harrass, and generally make each other miserable for fun, but gods help anyone who tries to do the same. While the sports rivalry exists, we also know they have love and respect for us. Both cities have been attacked, and both have each others’ backs.
Both Stewart and Colbert, as well as Barack Obama, who gave his presidential speech after the incident spoke of the city’s resilience, toughness and strength. At the time I heard all three speeches, I wasn’t feeling particularly tough, but as I heard my city described in these terms, I started to feel those parts of myself come to the fore–the same way I had seen throughout the city in the prior 48 hours.
We have been attacked by people unknown. We have a lot of anger, confusion, and some fear. A feeling with which Stewart is familiar, and has referenced a few times in the years since 9/11. However, the story is not the bombs and the fallout. The real story is how we reacted: runners going straight to the hospital, after 26.2 miles on the road to donate blood; the now-famous photo of Carlos Arredondo wheeling a man whose leg had been blown off.
In a million tiny ways on Monday, Boston showed its true colors. Whether it was the dozens of texts, Facebook comments, and notes I had from people asking whether I was alright (and those I was sending), or the doctors and nurses who were commandeering rides to nearby hospitals (and the people who drove them). Boston’s Police and Fire were out in force, and when we hear from the Governor and Police Commissioner, we have no reasons to doubt what they are saying.
When pressured, our first reaction was to help others. Maybe it’s that the runners had used up all of their flight getting to the finish line, but I saw dozens of people go straight into fight responses. Our thoughts were not about who did this, but about who was affected. The former question, we know, will be answered in time. The heroism of these moments is worthy of praise.
I think this is why so much of the coverage I have seen from out-of-state sources has annoyed or angered me as much as it has. Whether it’s the NY Post saying there’s someone in custody, when there was not; the various and sundry conspiracy theories (incidentally, the current BostonMarathonConspiracy.com is the best possible use of that domain); or Politico’s columnist whining about the wait for more information, there are a lot of people beyond the State’s borders who simply don’t get what the real story is–and these people are not helping.
When Breitbart’s wingnut reporters jumped on the President for not labeling the incident “terrorism” in his speech, I saw red. It was not until yesterday that I understood why. On a more basic level, however, Alex Jones’ conspiracy theories and the President’s detractors were trying to dismiss the events and take away from our supporters–in what I would describe as a childish plea for relevancy.
Not only did they miss the point (the Boston Police did not call it a “potential act of terror” until the hours after the speech), not only were they politicizing the incident, but by implying it was a terrorist act implies that the people are victims of terror. Were we confused? Yes. Were we scared? Absolutely. Were we terrorized? Hell no.
If the aim was to frighten and confuse us, then whoever is responsible for this act has failed. Instead, we showed our mettle. On top of that, a number of prominent folks have come out to cheer us on, as well as some more common folk. You can hear it from all over the country—even in space.
So, to Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, President Obama, and the millions of people nationwide sending thoughts our way: Thank you. It means a lot to know you’re there.
To the others, the Breitbart team, Alex Jones, anyone talking about terrorism instead of heroism: Grow up. If you have nothing positive to say, say nothing.
Finally, to the people who did this: Boston is, in my opinion, one of the smartest cities on the planet. It may be a biased opinion, but I back it up by pointing at the dozens of schools in the area, and the vast number of hospitals we have. Whitey Bulger was on the lam for 16 years, but today he awaits trial in our city. I would not want to be responsible for this incident when a city with Boston’s brainpower sets its mind to finding you.
Nor would I want to be in your shoes when the city catches you.