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Hold on to hope

Matt Miklavic | Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This isn’t the column I was supposed to write.
This was supposed to be funny. I was supposed to joke about dorm parties and business kids and sneak in a line about jersey-chasing for good measure. I was counting on some laughs. I was hoping for a spit-take or two at the dining hall. But I’m not really in the mood to write jokes right now.
It’s hard to write jokes while some are writing obituaries.
It’s hard to write jokes while some are waking up without limbs.
It’s hard to write jokes because I don’t feel like laughing.
It’s hard to write jokes because humor is buried beneath a list of other emotions right now. It’s beneath the anger. It’s beneath the worry. It’s beneath the sadness that occasionally wells up in my eyes.
It did not take long for most of us to find out about the bombings in Boston. For me, it started with a few texts. “Oh my god.” “This is crazy.” “Boston…” I had no idea what they were talking about. Soon enough, I learned. And I wasn’t sure what to believe. I grabbed my phone.
 I called my sister, who was supposed to meet her roommate at the finish line. No answer. I texted her. Some part of my brain told me I had nothing to worry about. It told me the odds were overwhelming she and everyone else I knew were fine. But far more of me was wrapped in fear. I waited, and a group of us watched. We saw replays of the blast. We saw pictures. We saw blood. We saw some flee the disaster. We saw others run toward the carnage.
My phone rang. My sister was okay. They had already been leaving as the explosions ripped through Boylston St.  In turn, I learned my cousin had been a few minutes away from finishing, so she was fine. Another call, and I learned the rest of my cousins, aunts, and uncles in Boston during the day unharmed. My phone and Facebook slowly informed me that my friends from back home were safe as well.  With each successive name checked off, I felt more relief.
That relief was quickly followed by some measure of guilt. I knew that elsewhere someone else was waiting for a call that wouldn’t come. Someone else’s brain was telling them the odds were in their favor. But they weren’t.
Next came a quiet sorrow. Information trickled in and the number of injured trickled higher.  So too did the number of dead. I was saddened by the carnage I saw, but it was more than that. I was upset at the incomprehensible malice involved. I was pained that such an event could happen.  That human violence had violated a symbol of human ability. I was dismayed that such an act could occur anywhere, much less on streets which I had walked.  I was shocked that this could occur in a city that I used to live outside of, where so much of my family still resided.
As day became night, the sadness failed to diminish. It wasn’t helped by growing casualty numbers. My spirits weren’t buoyed by reports of amputations and death that fell indiscriminately upon children and adults alike. The distress didn’t lessen as commentators discussed the senselessness of the whole thing.
I thought of all the years I had looked forward to Patriots’ Day. With school always out, I’d frequently end up at my grandparents’ house and find myself sitting on the side of the road, watching the marathon pass by. You’d watch the faces, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone you knew running. Depending on the time, you’d work in some of the 11 a.m. Red Sox game. As I think about Patriots’ Day memories, I now find anger. I’m angry such a day was forever marred. I’m angry every Patriots’ Day will be tinged with sadness now. I’m angry that Boston could be touched by such an enduring cloud. I also know this anger has no satisfying outlet, nor as of yet a deserving target. I’m aware my anger will not breed anything productive. I don’t want to feel angry, or sad or worried. But I do.
But this is not all that I have. This is not all we can take from this tragedy. In tragedy, we can find hope. In disaster, we can find strength. We find hope in the way a city and a country bands together. We find hope in tales of marathoners continuing to the hospital to donate blood, bystanders helping the injured, and first responders saving lives. We find hope in those who ran toward the danger, ignoring their own safety.  We find hope in common people displaying uncommon courage, in the ordinary being extraordinary.  We can find strength in this hope. We find strength in continuing on and refusing to let terror reign over us.
We can all learn from this act of terror. We can talk to those we love, mindful of the fleeting time we have here. We can seek to do better in our lives. We can get up tomorrow and live fully, finding hope in our humanity and strength in our collective ability. We can laugh, love and cry. We can live our lives with purpose and happiness, refusing to bend to those who would have us change our ways.
 Ultimately, I don’t want to feel anger, nor grief, nor guilt nor fear. I want to feel the same way that I felt Monday morning. I want to write jokes. And I will. For Boston, it might take time, but life will continue. That is not to say we will forget what happened – we cannot.  Those responsible will inevitably be brought to justice. But soon enough, people will return to Boylston Street, the Red Sox will again fill Fenway and summer will again descend upon the city. Smiles, laughter and happiness will return to the streets. In time, the wounds will heal. In time, it will get better.
Matt Miklavic is a sophomore studying political science and business from Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  He can be reached at
[email protected]
    The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.