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My Patriots’ Day celebrations began like most others in recent memory: my sons and I joined hundreds of Somerville residents for our annual ceremonies at Foss Park, enjoyed some much-needed warm weather, and cheered on our home team favorites, the Boston Red Sox, before heading to the Boston Garden for the Bruins game, which we all looked forward to as a great end to a great day.
Instead, as it did for the country, the day took a heartbreaking turn. I had every intention of dedicating my column this week to the day’s positive events, to our nation’s patriots, to those who paved the way for freedom during the American Revolution, and to those who continue to give their lives today to support that freedom. Instead, I find myself thinking of a different kind of patriot, the everyday patriots who rise up in the face of tragedy to aid and support those in need, and to carry on proudly.
On Monday, April 15, 2013, our city, our state, and our nation were shocked and deeply saddened by an act of senseless and inconceivable violence, during an event that has, for 117 years, been a symbol of international peace and celebration here in Boston. We are all grieving. But words like “resilient,” “determined,” and “heroes” can also be heard everywhere, from private conversations to national newscasts. And these are the words, and the patriots, that can give us comfort and hope as we move forward.
That mass violence continues to happen in this country – and across the world – is sickening, unacceptable, and wrong. That public events designed to provide happiness, harmony and simple family fun are threatened by such cowardly acts of terror is unthinkable. Yet so many Bostonians, so many Americans, and so many people from around the world are already pledging support and vowing their determination to prove that our cherished institutions and traditions can and will continue undeterred.
What has emerged in the wake of Monday’s bombings is renewed faith in humankind. We see it both in the outpouring of support from around the world and in the immediate actions by first responders, bystanders, and Boston residents. Without hesitation, first responders, volunteers, and marathon viewers leaped into action, assisting victims and families with medical aid, kind and calming words, and supplies, including several of Somerville’s own off-duty police officers who happened to be just yards away from the scene.
In less than 24 hours, thousands of Greater Bostonians opened up their homes to anyone needing or wanting a place to stay. Teams of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals continue to work around the clock to minimize the severity of injuries and to provide counseling and support services to runners, victims, and all others affected. Organizations and individuals around the country are standing united with Boston, putting aside any differences in the name of unity and peace. This was a day we will not forget, and it is a coming together I hope we will all remember.
As I write, the Governor has called this incident an “attack.” The FBI and the President are investigating it as an “act of terror.” All local, regional, and federal law enforcement and elected leaders have vowed not to rest until the suspects responsible for Monday’s act of terror have been held accountable. And yet, what matters the most in these immediate days and weeks following the bombings is that unwavering support, love, and friendship among friends and family and that continue to pour in via local and online media, supporting the victims of this tragedy, and offering comfort to all residents of the Boston area. In the face of violence and destruction, we continue to see compassion. This is who we are. We are a city, a region, and a nation that can put aside our differences and unite to support our fellow Americans in time of need.
In the coming days as new information is revealed, some instinctive responses may very rationally be fear, anger, and disbelief. I encourage you to stay strong, remain calm, and continue to do what we can to support anyone affected. When something bad happens, especially if it is unexpected or violent, it is not uncommon to experience symptoms of trauma. Everyone reacts differently to trauma and being informed can provide us with the tools and insights to assist family and friends including children, and there are many things you can do to help yourself and others heal, and we will be working toward this together as a community.
For our part, there are and will continue to be services available to assist with grief counseling or any other immediate need that may arise within our community. As part of the Somerville Health Department, we have a Trauma Response Network with a team of trained, professional counselors and health professionals available for services as needed. For more information on response to trauma, you can visit our Health Department, the Office of Prevention, Trauma Response Network and Riverside Trauma Center (www.riversidetraumacenter.org).
I will never forget trying to explain to my young children, ages 9, 7, 6, and 5, why our plans to attend that Bruins game were canceled, trying to explain the meaning of the word tragedy, the loss of life. I could not take myself away from watching news reports. Like most others, I am sure, Monday was a sleepless night, and Tuesday morning meant tuning back into media reports, wondering what the night had brought. I find it difficult to concentrate on everyday duties, on work, on anything other than the overwhelming urge to rush home and hug my wife and children just a little tighter.
As a father, a husband, a brother, a son, and a Boston area resident, this attack hits far too close to home. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the families, and all those affected by this senseless tragedy. Boston, we stand with you.