“Have you seen Brian?” Her voice cracked. The question was directed at me, but the asker’s eyes were frantically searching around with the unimaginable concern God has only given mothers. She had cuts on her forehead; blood was running down to her neck. I couldn’t ask her about Brian’s descriptions at that point, but I gathered from her age that he wasn’t too young. I began looking around and rubbed her shoulder, telling her the police were here and that it was going to be alright. It was a chaotic scene, people were fleeing… police were trying to calm people. Eventually, one of them turned our way and implored us to get out of here, that it was not safe, that a third bomb could explode.
I was there at the finish line on that fatefully tragic day with the intention of covering the amazing organization of volunteers, family, friends, and runners for my school’s newscast.
I had just finished interviewing one of the runners, and was smiling at the little girl in front of me who was doing a little dance for my camera, when the first bomb exploded. The little girl, frightened, jumped into her mother’s arms and began to cry. Everyone around me panicked and scattered, as mothers shielded their little ones, and fathers engulfed their wives and children under their protective arms ushering them quickly to safety.
I was frozen, and in disbelief that the boom I heard was a bomb… here, in my city… until I turned my head and saw a fireball and a white cloud of smoke coming my way. I forced myself to move when the second bomb exploded, and immediately gathered my things and headed towards the explosion… praying. I had to know if people had been hurt, if anyone needed help. The first wave of horror hit me when I saw drops of blood on the floor, and as I progressed further, people with minor injuries, cuts on their faces and scraps of clothing on the ground. And when I got to the site of the explosion, nothing in this world could have prepared me for what I saw: people lying everywhere, blood gushing from their injuries onto the ground; a man was rushed past me in a wheelchair, his legs cut off at the knees.
As the police officer yelled at me to get out of here, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay there with the people, hold their hands, and whisper to them that they would be alright, because that was all I could do. But at the same time, the earnestness in the police officer’s plea urged me to turn away, he felt responsible for our safety, and I did not want to burden him. And when I heard the possibility of a third bomb, fear hit me for the first time; we would never see it coming. And so, I began to walk away, leaving my heart and my mind behind.
There was compassion in my heart as I walked, along with thousands, away from the horror. I came eye to eye with a stranger, and we both mustered a smile, relieved that the other was safe. I wanted to find the little girl who was dancing, and hold her tight. I wanted to share everything I had, because grief and pain are lessened when shared.
When I got home, I felt a shower of gratitude. I fell to the floor and curled up against the wall, finally giving away to the tears and thanking God that I was alive, in one piece, and would see my family again. But something inside me was uneasy. I was slightly ashamed to be one of the lucky ones who got away unharmed, when so many were in pain. I felt guilty. Even now, a week has passed and I feel guilty for leaving, for not helping a mother find her son, for withholding compassion from a human in need of it, for fearing for my own life when the lives of others are as worthy and valuable.
Times like this are when our humanity is put to test; when with our compassion to strangers in need we show the despicable terrorists who indiscriminately steal from and feast on the joy and happiness of the innocent around the world, that peace and the people of peace will prevail, and that the cheers of those cowardly perpetrators in their dark quarters will be short lived. Yes, we will mourn our losses and we will never forget. But we, the people of Boston, are now stronger than ever. We are united.
Fatma Tanis is a junior at Suffolk University.