Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston

There are more important things than software this week.

We thought it was just a transit issue - the kind that always plagues big cities.

Mom and Walt had suggested just going to the finish.  As a veteran marathon spectator, I'd advised against it.  Too crowded.  Instead, we'd followed a bold plan renting a car, skipping down the race route for three stops in the suburbs, then dropping the car at the hotel, and taking a cab to our final stop near BU at mile 24.5, followed by a quick T ride to Copley Square at a meet-up after the finish.

We'd just seen Kris run by at BU, in the shadow of the famed Citgo sign.  The day had gone tremendously to this point - great weather, great crowds.  We'd found Kris successfully at every stop. We'd gotten some really good picture.  The day was going very well.

The St. Mary's green line-C stop on Beacon was closed due to the marathon, so we walked up a few blocks to BU Center on the green line-B.  We were chatting idly when it occurred to us there hadn't been a train in awhile.  And we saw the train at the next station (the T runs at street level here) was motionless with it's lights flashing, which I'd never seen before.  The girl next to us says the MBTA just posted a notice that all green line service between Copley and Park was suspended.  I check their site - this is due to "police activity.  As a New Yorker, I know this is a maddeningly vague term - could mean anything to a rowdy person on a platform to a suspicious package.

We figured it was just a transit issue.  We still needed to get to the finish, so we walked over to the side of Commonwealth Ave to try to hail a cab or get an Uber.  Walt's mom calls - she's watching on TV and says there's been an "explosion".  I check Google News for "boston explosion."  I get some hits, but maddeningly vague.  "Witnesses are reporting that there may have been an explosion near the finish line...."  In other words, no one knows anything yet and they're repeating unconfirmed reports.  I check the Boston Marathon's app - Kris still doesn't have a finish time.  Odd.  She should have finished 10 minutes ago.  Uber cancels on me, which I haven't seen happen before.  More Google news.  And now there are more definitive news stories.  There were two explosions near the finish line.  Two. 

And I flash back 12 years to when Jim stuck his head into our office to ask if I'd heard a plane hit the World Trade Center.  I remember thinking what a horrible accident that must have been.  Then in a bit I went back to work.  About 10 minutes later, Jim tells me I have to come watch this - another plane hit the World Trade Center.  That's when it was real for me.  Two isn't an accident.  It's not pilot error, or a mechanical fault, or an FAA goof.  It's not a gas main, or a steam pipe, or an electrical issue.  Two is on purpose.  Still no finish time posted.

We were lucky - Kris was about a mile from the finish when it happened, and was stopped half a mile away.  We were lucky - she managed to get a call off on the jammed-to-the-gills cell network and told us where she was.  We were lucky - I know Boston well enough to know where that is.  We were lucky - it was near a bridge, when the police were telling people to get out of downtown.  We were lucky - Mom and I were staying across the river in Cambridge, so we had somewhere to go.  We were very, very lucky.

On Tuesday, it seemed like everyone had a "what if" story.  The guy sitting next to us at lunch had decided to leave his beer half finished and walk to the finish, and so was half a block past when the bombs went off.  The waiter had left the area when the bombs went off and walked over to meet friends just before the blast.  Kris was in the 10:40 start group, not the 10:20 start group.  We were all very. very lucky.

My heart goes out to those who weren't.

These are people who are no less worthy than any of us.  No less deserving.  No less important.  Just less lucky.  Less fortunate.  They could have been us.  We could have been them.  These were people I'd probably watched.  People I took photographs of earlier in the day. 

An underreported fact is that the bombs hit the tail end of the marathon - the late starters.  This wave contains a disproportionate number of runners who didn't qualify by running a fast time, but rather by raising money for charity (Kris was running for the American Liver Foundation).  I don't know if it's deliberate, but targeting people trying more than most to do good in the world...I can't think of a proper word I'm willing to print.

I'd like to ask you to do two things.

First, reflect a bit on how lucky you are, and pray for those who are less lucky than you.  Not less worthy.  Not less deserving.  No different than you.  Just less lucky.  The victims in Boston and their families are a great place to start.  Please don't finish there.  Think about people in Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, Palestine.  Places where similar things happen and barely make the news anymore, where people can get killed like this just going to the market or a bar.  You are lucky.  Not more worthy, not different than those victims, their family and friends.  Luckier.

And second, give someone a hug and tell them you love them.  Take advantage of that opportunity.  You're lucky to have it. 

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