That’s all I wanted to hear from loved ones and neighbors and friends yesterday afternoon and evening, in the minutes and hours after two explosions ripped through the finish line area of the Boston Marathon.
Just a simple and clear, “I’m okay.”
With hundreds of thousands of folks jammed into downtown Boston for the Marathon and the Sox game, a collective fear hovered like a dreadful spirit over the Bay State: that someone we knew was hurt or killed. As frantic updates about the blasts spread like wildfire across Twitter and jumbled news reports spun around the web and TV and radio, so many of us waited to hear just something. To hear anything. To get a text message, or read a Facebook status update from a runner or spectator we worried about. We feared the worst. We needed to know, to find out what happened to them.
“I’m okay.” For most of us that relief and answers did finally come. We let out a heavy sigh when the good news arrived and we did hear…“I’m okay….I finally made it home…they stopped us before the finish line so we weren’t anywhere near the explosions…we were in the subway when we heard a loud boom but made it back to Natick…we found sanctuary in a Copley Square Church and folks took good care of us and so don’t worry…I’m okay.”
Even those of us miles away from Boston, we heard from our circle of loved ones too. From all across the country, even the world, they texted, emailed, and called us. “Is everyone alright? What happened!?” Those of us on the periphery of this tragedy: we let our folks know that we were okay too, that we are okay…right?
Well…no, not really. We are not okay. Not yet. Maybe not for a long time. Maybe not ever. This is true too. Not okay if we lost to death a loved one in what was an intentional and cruel act of violence against the innocent. Not okay if we’re one of the scores of injured who one moment cheered on the runners and the next moment laid on the ground surrounded by carnage and chaos.
Not okay if we are one of the cops or doctors or nurses or firefighters or Good Samaritan bystanders who courageously ran towards and into the blast to help, to comfort, and to rescue. I can’t imagine what they saw, how they did what they did. Can you?
We are not okay if we felt and heard the echo of 9/11 rippling across our region with a sickening familiarity, bringing back memories of a day that had mostly softened and faded in our hearts. We are not okay, for it is not okay, that another world city, our city, now takes its place among the ranks of those locales shattered by bomb blasts and terror. New York. London. Madrid. Mumbai. Boston.
So thank God we are okay. And oh my God: we are not okay. We must name this spiritual contradiction right now, this tension and churning within our broken hearts. How all our feelings are mixed up and mashed up: sadness and relief, grief and guilt, shock and anger, the question of “Why?” with no immediate answer.
We want to hurry up and put it all back together again: normalcy, a warm Patriots Day like so many others before, Boston as our special city, safe, and tucked away in sweet familiar April memories and marathons and everything which makes this place shine. God knows we’d like to go back in time but we can’t.
So…we are okay. We are not okay. We will be okay. But not yet.