Today is Friday.  I got up at 6 this morning to cycle down to Boylston Street to  photograph the improvised memorial for Marathon victims, a trip I’d managed to postpone for three days, afraid of what I’d feel once I got there.  Flowers and poems and marathon medals.  A visual to  accompany an explanation about why The Garum Factory isn’t running our usual format.

Instead, I learn that a young MIT policeman is dead, as is one of the bombing suspects, and the city is in lockdown while scores of police attempt to locate the second bomber.

By the time you read this, it may be all over.  But regardless of where we are in this narrative, I’d like to devote a moment to its beginning, last Monday.

The marathon route runs straight down Beacon Street, a few blocks from our condo.  At home shortly after the explosions, I received a panicky phone call from a Cape Cod friend down near the finish line asking if I’d seen her husband.  I hadn’t, but we eventually discovered he was safe, part of the mass of runners stopped on Beacon Street at mile 24.5.  Over the next few hours everyone–parents, kids, friends–gathered at our house.  With their car trapped inside the security zone that had been established after the bombings everyone spent the night.

Arborio rice, leftover halibut, kale pesto, and a raft of asparagus and spring onions waiting to be grilled, went into an impromptu dinner.  I have never been so grateful to have people around our table in my life.

Those who say that Boston values its civic virtues too strongly to let this tragedy permanently mar what is one of the great spectator amateur sporting events in the country have it right.  I don’t see us evolving into a city where we have to remove our shoes and belts and empty our pockets to get within a block of the finish line.  My favorite part of the Boston Marathon is watching the people who come down Beacon Street after the three-hour mark, many whom don’t look as if they could run out for milk let alone endure 26.2 miles.  And watching those who cheer them on:  You can do it!   You’re almost there!  Just a few more miles!  Exhausted runners visibly perk up.  We’re not going to let anyone take that away from us.  Photos of spectators, first responders, other runners, rushing toward the finish line in spite of the explosion exemplify what this city and this event is about.

Next year people will be running, and celebrating afterward, their triumphs tempered, I believe, with a remembrance of those who ran and watched the year before them.  (And we’ll be back with more food.)  But for just this post, we want to acknowledge that at three dinner tables people will be confronting the painful absence of Krystal Campbell, Martin Richard and Lingzi Lu, and nothing that anyone cooks that day will make up for that.

57 thoughts

    • Thank you. The question that is circulating among many parents here is How could a kid with so many seemingly strong connections in the community (our daughter was tweeted a photo of HER friends with this kid at a pre-prom party) go down such a dark path. Ken

  1. So, so sad Ken. I am truly sorry you are all going through this nightmare. Your fellowship and food privided great comfort and you must take some small solace from this. Cooking is one of the kindest things we can do for each other. Hugs to you and your wife~

  2. This week has been one of anguish, anxiety, pain, and loss for all…and renewed commitments to work for peace, collaboration, cooperation, problem-solving, dialogue. As a Mainer who was raised at the beach, I’ve always considered Boston to be my ‘homeland ‘ and ‘closest’ big city. This week my beaches, lapping waves, ‘smells’, and hearing/seeing the tides turn, knowing that I’m home and grounded have been absent, and sorely missed. Know that Boston Marathon 2014 will bring more sunshine and strength to all. Prayers and thoughts with you as you cocoon with your family.

    • “Very strange time for us all…” One of the byproducts of this experience has been a visceral sympathy for everyone in places where extreme violence is normal. How do we get past that? Ken

  3. Thank you for your post. I’m actually a Boston transplant, used to live right on Beacon street when I was an international grad student like Lingzi Lu, and my boyfriend at that time worked in Watertown. Boston is a great city, and it has been good to me. My heart goes out to everyone who is there.

    • Last night, after news of Dzhokhar’s capture had been announced, I went outside and could hear, from a mile away, the cheers of the crowds massing in Kenmore Square. I’m sure it felt like a party. But I can’t help but feel that this will radiate beyond the families of those who lost loved ones or those who were injured. We are aware that we are vulnerable in a way that we didn’t realized before. Not good or bad, just different. Ken

  4. Great post. I hope to see the numbers double next year as a way to say, “You can’t hurt us. We stand together and will run and raise money in memory of the victims.” Afterall, we should use that day to remember the lives of those who were making a “good” difference in the world; from runners to the injured to the helpers. I surely don’t want people to remember the bombers.

  5. I was at Copley Square in 76 or 77 cheering for people crossing the finish line. I think Seko, a Japanese athlete, had finished first and there was a Japanese drumming group, Ondekoza, that had finished the run that was performing near the finish line. The weather was gorgeous and it was so peaceful.

    It’s unthinkable that a day of such celebration of life can be ruined in such an abrupt way. I hope everyone in Boston and elsewhere can feel safe again despite all this and that something like this will never happen again anywhere on earth which I know sounds naive but that’s just the way I feel. Human beings cannot be hurting fellow human beings, simple as that.

    • I remember that Marathon, and the Japanese drummers! How incredible!

      I don’t think there’s anything at all naive about aspirations for peace. It takes a certain tough-minded-ness to think that way, especially now in the face of all the anti-Muslim blather being circulated. Ken

  6. What a beautifully written post. I’ve tried to stay away from most of the media hype about the marathon but this is a heartfelt, personal story and I was touched reading it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you. It was interesting to be sitting inside, trying (not very successfully) to get some work done, while being plugged into FB, and following the posts of photographer friends, friends who lived in the Watertown neighborhood near where Dzhokhar was captured, and expressions of concern from other friends around the country. I turned off the news after awhile–I felt like the same info was being replayed again and again, until i was drowning in a kind of info-mulch that wasn’t helping me. I’m surprised–and grateful–that they captured this kid alive. I want to know Why? Ken

      • I too am grateful this kid is alive – too much death and injury already. He may help us to learn ‘who else’, but I never really feel we get to the ‘why’…I couldn’t answer my son Colin when he asked me this on Monday – “why do people do this?” Great post, Ken.

    • You praise too much, Mimi, but thank you all the same. We were supposed to be cooking and photographing this morning, but Jody said, “This week has just been too much. I need a bike ride.” So we’re giving it a rest today, and then having dinner with friends in Cambridge tonight. Normal life. Ken

  7. Thanks for the support. Had dinner with friends in Cambridge last night. Interesting how many people are determined not to let this affect the Boston Marathon–it really is a beloved event here. Ken

  8. Thought I had successfully posted a comment last Friday, but I guess not. I wanted you to know that I was thinking about you on Friday morning, when my inbox was lacking its usual Garum Factory installment. I worried you or loved ones had been hurt in the marathon, wondered if your daughter went to school with the younger of the bombers, wondered how it felt to be in Boston. I was so heartened to read your blog entry that afternoon. Very evocative description of cycling through the city and hunkering down with loved ones. Glad it’s over. Glad you are okay. Thank you for sharing your impressions.

    • Thank you, Alison. It’s been quite touching to hear from so many people expressing concern for us. My daughter didn’t go to school with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but a dozen of her friends did, and they’re as baffled as the rest of us. This past week has been like an out of body experience. My own deepest feeling is for all of the people with the misfortune to have been near those knapsacks. I keep thinking of the Tsarnaev brothers as they walked away, wondering if they made eye contact with anyone, if they thought of how those lives would be irrevocably altered. Ken

  9. Ken, I was looking forward to your weekly digest, I was sure you were to write about this Monday , thank you. Elvira ( we are still out of town)

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