By Zarah Kavarana
Eight months ago, my journey in Boston began. Leaving behind my Westchester roots to study Journalism at Boston University, I gave up a more sheltered life and dove into a faster paced city. After being immersed in the excitement it has to offer, I have grown to love Boston just as much as my original home. I now love Boston particularly for its strength when it was challenged. Terror stuck on a Monday during the Boston Marathon when two bombs went off near the finish line. The remainder of that week presented challenges as we put back each of the torn pieces that ultimately unite us. The following is a telling of my experiences as the week progressed.
After much anticipation, Monday morning had finally come. It was our first day off since spring break, due to Patriot’s Day, a Massachusetts holiday in celebration of the battle of Lexington and Concord that began the American Revolution.
I awoke to the clamor of students running through my hallway. It was a normal day, infused with a bit of added excitement. I walked down to the center of campus, where my friends and lunch awaited me.
Along the way, a fleet of police officers zoomed through campus on their motorcycles. I stopped and stared but thought little of it, knowing they were heading toward some sort of Patriot’s Day festivities. Ten minutes later, I had reached my destination and barely smacked my tray on the tabletop when the room went silent. Students began clustering around a nearby TV, gasping to express their horror. I was lured to the screen in a similar sort of way, and read a startling headline between bobbling heads: “Two Explosions Near the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon.” I was startled, and frantically tried to call home to ease my parents’ deepest worries. Phone lines were down.
My friends and I began to speculate what might have happened less than two miles from where we were sitting. We considered that it could be terrorism, but how could such a thing happen in a safe city like Boston? Not before long, we each received emergency alerts sent by the Boston University Police Department requesting us to remain in our residences and stay clear of the Kenmore Square area and beyond. It was far enough to feel safe, but close enough to feel uncomfortable.
We quickly polished off our meals before emerging onto the streets of our bruised city. Hundreds of people were moving through by foot all at once, trying to escape the dangers of the other end. Some were runners, others bystanders. Tears and emotions began to flow, as panicked Bostonians tried to reach out to one another. Coming back to my dorm room, I immediately tuned in to news stations broadcasting the horrors of the day. I was glued to the screen for hours. What had become of my city?
Bits of information had emerged since Monday, but nothing groundbreaking. Our community had been mourning the loss of three victims who had died during the bombings–one of whom was BU graduate student, Lu Lingzi. I didn’t know her, but I’m certain that she was loved. People cried for days. They embraced in the middle of the street, supporting one another in such a time of trouble.
I began hearing reports that President Obama was visiting Boston on Thursday to give a speech. At first, I thought about how crazy it would be to attend. Then I thought, why not go? My roommate, Sarah, and I both had late classes that day. Knowing we wouldn’t be missing out, we decided wake up early and experience the making of history.
We woke up around 6:30 a.m.– something I hadn’t done since high school. Although the speech wouldn’t start until 11 a.m., doors opened at 8. Some people had been waiting in line overnight, so arriving at 7:30 didn’t do much for us. We waited in a long line, spanning multiple blocks just to get tickets into the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, where the speech was taking place. The bustle was unbelievable. Reporters swamped the streets, pulling out anyone who was willing to talk.
After two hungry hours in the cold, we were told that tickets had been sold out and all seats were full. We were given the option of attending a viewing party for the overflow of attendees at Cathedral High School, right next to where the speech was taking place. We took our seats on the gymnasium floor, and soon the service began. It was unbelievably powerful to hear the words of each religious leader and politician as they spoke of our great city. I sat among fellow Bostonians, many who knew no other home. People cried, I cried. People cheered, I cheered. The speech gave us faith, pride, and joy in light of such an awful time. I had never felt more immersed in the Boston community.
Instantaneously after the speech ended, we were all moved to the back of the gymnasium, where a stage was now surrounded by people. We had no clue about what was going on, but it was apparent that something big was about to happen. Chatter and speculation began as reporters seeped in. “He’s coming to speak straight from the cathedral,” we heard someone say. Sure enough, after a few moments of waiting, Governor Deval Patrick and President Barak Obama stepped into the room. They had come to speak to the Marathon Committee and meet those who were unable to get into the cathedral.
Obama was magnetic. Everyone in the room felt his presence. He was jovial, kind, and a lot better looking in person, if I may say. It was a short speech, but we managed to take a few photos before leaving. It was a very successful morning.
At least 50 police cars raced down the Massachusetts Turnpike, heading toward the MIT campus across the Charles River, where a police officer had gotten shot. The view from my dorm room was clear enough to see the events unravel from a distance. The sirens blared into the night as the crime scene moved to Watertown. The hunt for the Tsarnaev brothers had begun.
Nobody slept that night. We were all glued to our TVs, listening to our radios, and peering out over the river. News came in that one of the suspects had been killed in a shootout with police. The other was on the loose. Confusion swept over Boston as the night deepened. Reporters were only stating what they could, but even that drew little certainty. I had tried falling asleep, but all the excitement demanded that I shouldn’t. Spot lit helicopters hovered over the city, and the sirens refused to silence. The chaos disturbed me, in more ways than one. I was starting to grow unsettled after all of Watertown had been put in lockdown. Terror was unraveling just a few miles away from me, and I began to question my safety. I finally nodded off to bed at 5 a.m., only to wake up the next morning to an even worse scene.
Boston and many of its neighboring suburbs were in lockdown. All classes were cancelled, and we were advised not to go outside under any circumstances. Of course, it was nice to have the day off, but something was definitely amiss in our dear “Beantown.” The air was certainly more solemn than usual with people growing increasingly worried.
By nighttime, our culprit had been found, and people across Boston began to cheer. BU students decided to walk down to the Boston Common, where festivities were already taking place, in honor of those who were unable to finish the marathon. Easily hundreds of college students gathered to cheer and celebrate our city into the early morning. Not even rain deterred them. I attended, and was sure to thank every BPD officer I ran into there. On my way back, I found myself on a still closed off Boylston Street, where the bombings took place earlier that week. It was a quiet night, but it was now a safe night.
It’s still crazy to think that all of this happened. I’ll never understand why anyone would terrorize “my” Boston, my home. I walk these streets day after day, and night after night.
I am so thankful to be safe, and to be able to share my experiences with others. Boston is healing, and life has moved on since the occurrences of last week. Many of us are still aching, but the unbelievable support system present here has rejoined us in a unifying bond. Boston is beautiful; Boston is strong.
Zarah Kavarana has completed her freshman year at Boston University’s College of Communication, where she is studying Journalism. She is a graduate of Briarcliff High School, and has always been a member of the Westchester community.