Seeing Boston’s Tragedy Through the Shadow of 9/11
Image Credit: A. Strakey

Seeing Boston’s Tragedy Through the Shadow of 9/11


Almost every weekend for the last several months, my family has found itself in Boston. Living just south of the city, we always find time to walk the streets, wander through the shops, and sample the fine local cuisine. From my beloved Boston Red Sox and Harvard, to the local venders selling various goods with that great Boston accent, it’s a town that has a soul I have grown to love.

Last Saturday we found ourselves near Faneuil Hall, an area we don’t normally get to as we tend to stay near Cambridge and Harvard Square. As we were about to cross the street to begin our walk to the “T” and eventually home, we noticed a plaque that commemorated the Boston Massacre. It was hard for me to believe that such a shocking event took place in a city like Boston, where such historical incidents seemed so divorced from present reality.

Needless to say, yesterday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon was heart wrenching. My wife works in the Boston area. I immediately sprang to the phone to call her as well as local relatives and friends to see if all were OK. My phone would not stop ringing as friends and colleagues were checking to see if I was in the city that day. Thankfully, everyone I knew was accounted for. Sadly, many were not as fortunate and have been greatly impacted by the day’s events.

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As various media outlets replayed the bombing over and over again, a sense of profound loss overwhelmed me, increasing in intensity every time I watched the bombs go off on television. I thought of those who were killed or suffered grave injuries—including losing limbs— whose lives will be forever changed. In the coming days and weeks ahead, we will know more about who committed this act of terror, what their motivations were, and whether this was a foreign or domestic plot.

As the day’s events unfolded there was something else, something in the background – a memory of a past event that caused an even greater sense of anger and sadness, which seemed to compound the current tragedy in Boston into something even more horrific. The memory of that day’s events has never left my mind. And even though I was not there to witness that harrowing moment, it has had a profound impact on my life, who I am as a person, and the life I have led since.

That day was September 11, 2001.

While very different tragedies, for me there seems to be an obvious link – that of pain and loss caused by a senseless act of violence against innocent people.

Watching the sheer panic of people running for cover and the sense of shock immediately after the bombs went off brought me back to the dark times of that Tuesday morning.

On the morning of 9/11, my future wife and I were going out for an early morning breakfast date. As we arrived at the restaurant, a TV was setup right near the hostess stand.  On screen I saw what I presumed to be a movie depicting planes crashing into large skyscrapers in New York City. For the first few minutes, as I gazed at the screen, I thought what I was watching was Hollywood fiction, and certainly not reality. As the announcer came on  to update everyone on the latest developments, I quickly realized that a dark day had befallen New York, America, and indeed the world. We stayed for hours, glued to the TV, as we watched the second tower collapse.

To be honest, I have never been to the 9/11 memorial or the area where the Twin Towers once stood. I have always wanted to go, but my wife to this day still cries when she sees pictures or video of the towers collapsing. I could never go without her. I can’t say that I do much better when those images cross my eyes; my mind still struggles to understand the impact of that horrific day.

I like so many Americans live in the shadow of 9/11. Yesterday’s events for me hurt even more because I look at 4/15 through the prism of fallen towers, lost lives, and a tragedy that still hurts to this day. I am guessing for many Americans and people around the world who have fallen victim or witnessed even from afar other senseless acts of terror, they may share some of these emotions.

Keep Boston in your thoughts.

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