Writing from My House in Cambridge on April 19th 2012
Writing from my house in Cambridge MA
9:00 AM The Japanese maple in the front yard went pink during the night while I was sleeping and missing the overnight coverage of the story unfolding just blocks away. The calls began at 6:00 with “Code Red Alert” showing up on my phone and my husband yelling at me that I was going to have to cancel the event I was running for 400 people tonight at MIT. I didn’t get it at first. Until everyone I knew began to tweet and call including my daughters, Cambridge kids both, one in Paris and the other daughter in LA. She went to Rindge too.
Of course these misguided kids were living in Cambridge. Of course they went to Rindge. Of course there are pictures of the younger one at the prom and his shell-shocked friends. Rindge is the most diverse high school in the United States. My kids had friends form Bangladesh, Korea, Nepal, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Russia, Haiti and Canada. School notices are published in a United Nations of languages, and there are many kids who live “on their own” and go to high school with parents living hundreds if not thousands of miles away. As a parent – that was a hard thing. That my kids had so many friends who were legally “emancipated” and sixteen years old. From my point of view it meant no parents to call when my kid was missing in the middle of the night and out with her friends.
On the other hand, Rindge is the best school in the world. As is Cambridge the best place in the world to bring up children who will become worldly adults. Because it is so diverse, and kids are in contact with so many peers with wide-ranging life experiences Cambridge kids are at home in the world. Witness Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Witness my own two thriving in LA and Paris.
The Marathon bombings rock our world in Boston. I grew up in the shadow of the CITGO sign in Kenmore Square – a block from Fenway Park. As a kid I could lie in bed and block out the CITGO sign with my thumb. It was considered a patriotic duty to stand on Commonwealth Avenue and cheer the runners on every April. On years that I didn’t get myself to the marathon route or to the finish line, I felt a little guilty, like someone who shirked their civic duty to vote in a local primary election. This was one of the year’s I shirked.
This week as I can’t tear myself away from my devices, I am heartsick. I cannot believe that Obama’s message from the White House was directed at my city. The big news here last year was Whitey Bulger getting caught in Santa Monica. But terrorism?
I realized when I saw the photos last night, I had been hoping for a photo of someone who looked like Timothy McVeigh. But the photo looked like all the boys I know, my cousins, the kids you see on the street every day taking the subway back and forth from Boston to Cambridge. My heart literally sank. We have seen the enemy and they is us.
My husband whose expertise is in Nuclear Counter-Terrorism says that the true enemy—and the point of terrorism––is fear. And fear lets the terrorists win. But that doesn’t help. I am afraid. I am afraid that the fear will be commonplace in my life, will keep Bostonians curled up in a ball, afraid to let their children out of their sight, ranging across our fantastic compact city. Less free than mine were to become worldly, to engage and respect the great diversity of the world we live in. And I wish my phone would stop ringing with friends and relatives all over the world who are afraid for us. We are fine, I tell them from behind my locked doors, with my radio on in one room, and my TV tuned in another. But the truth is I am not fine. I am sick at heart and I am afraid that my fear will never stop. Even by the time the Japanese maple leaves turn brown.