PLEASE NOTE: this is part 2.
part 1 – my own photo gallery of this VS that, “look for the helpers 1775-2013” – is HERE (warning: contains graphic images).
yesterday was supposed to be a day of at-home-in-boston email catch-up, calls with agents, and finally breaking ground on sorting out what songs i’m going to play this summer when i take the band back on the road.
i’ve been putting it off.
i spent the latter part of last week traveling between boston, new haven, and new york (i did talks at harvard and yale) and i spent sunday staring at the wall (well, the equivalent of a wall in my life: a book and my twitter feed). monday (yesterday) i finally felt ready to get back the fuck to work. i woke up, meditated, drove my ass to yoga, left class and settled down at the bookstore cafe, cracking my knuckles.
the news came in at around 3:30 pm through twitter (someone tweeted at me: “TURN ON CNN EXPLOSIONS AT BOSTON MARATHON”) after i’d been working for about fifteen minutes. explosions at the boston marathon. i automatically assumed nothing really bad happened. i chatted with the girl at the counter next to me. explosions happen all the time. people are fine. two minutes later the first written news reports came in that people were missing legs. i started to cry. i apologized to the girl next to me, grabbed a napkin, blew my nose and gathered my brain, and realized that i was probably not going to get work done.
the thing was, i didn’t want to turn on fucking CNN.
first of all, i have no TV.
second of all, none of my friends are on CNN.
the moment felt just like the moment when i was in my boston apartment (same one) 12 years ago and i got a call from my mother (“TURN ON THE TV! THEY’VE ATTACKED THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN NEW YORK”) and ran up one floor to lee’s apartment where he had a twenty-year old television that we dusted off and got cranked up to watch the horror unfold.
the moment was: is there more? is this an isolated incident? will things be bad? am i safe here? are my friends safe? followed immediately by a guilty sense of: things are happening!!! followed by a sense of: i bet the world is going to get worse now because people are going to start yelling and doing more bad shit to each other.
clutch a pillow and watch. pick a pillow, any pillow.
12 years ago, my housemates at the time, marisa and sandhia, raced upstairs and we all clutched a pillow on lee’s bed.
yesterday: twitter was the pillow.
the boston marathon ends about a mile from that apartment, where i’ve lived for 13 years. neil and i have been camped out for a few months on the other side of the river, a few miles in the other direction.
my phone exploded with texts from friends making sure we were okay.
neil was in london. all the cell service was down so i couldn’t call him. i tweeted him and i put the word out to the london people who might be able to flag him down.
the cafe fell silent and there was a great murmuring of news being passed from mouth to mouth.
a man walked in a approached a guy on a laptop: “excuse me but…did something happen? was there a bombing?”
that eternal question: why does it take tragedy to bring us together. i don’t know.
we all stayed glued to the feed. as people tweeted updated pictures i passed my computer along the counter for people to see.
i left the cafe at 5 pm and went home, and mostly didn’t leave twitter until about 9 pm.
i preferred to follow the news through the twitter feeds of the boston globe, the boston police, and @billy_baker, a globe reporter who was on the ground there and tweeting first-hand accounts.
and last but not least: i was following my followers, who were working as an aggregator. i tweeted news as it came in, asked for sources, and tweeted as things got debunked.
but really? it was about all being together. holding each other as a pillow.
reminding each other every hour on the hour that the bad guys won’t win, that we don’t run ourselves on the fuel of fear, that we see pain and we empathize and we rise.
obama said: on a day like today there are no democrats, no republicans, only americans.
i argued: on a day like today there are no democrats, no republicans, or americans…only humans.
this is the thing.
i am not a news source, i am a person. a person who shares news and who follows and has a following of people all over the world, so maybe i appear to be a news source, but mostly…i’m a person.
i am not fair and balanced.
i care mostly about everyone feeling like we are together.
that is my agenda.
and i do whatever it takes to make it feel that way.
let me tell you about patriots day, so you understand it.
it’s hard to describe patriots day in boston…and even harder to describe patriots day in lexington.
i grew up in lexington, it’s my hometown. it’s the town where the american revolutionary war began.
there’s revolutionary war shit EVERYWHERE. really. it is oozing out of the cracks in the street.
tourists visit our town green by the busload all summer.
stationed on the battle green in the center of town, there’s a summer-long permanent set of dudes in revolutionary-war-era costumes who will tell you all about the battle.
they look like this:
Bill Scouler: “Excellent Battle Green Guide” (photo via SAM601601 on flickr)
i actually trained one summer to be a tour guide.
you work for tips, it was right up my alley.
i learned all the information i needed for the test, and i nailed it.
everything from paul revere’s midnight ride
RUN PAUL RUN
to the famous words of captain parker as he tried to calm and instruct the terrified minutemen soldiers against the british:
“STAND YOUR GROUND
DO NOT FIRE UNLESS FIRED UPON
BUT IF THEY MEAN TO HAVE A WAR
LET IT BEGIN HERE”
it’s etched into my skull.
it’s etched on rocks downtown.
every year, near april 19th, lexington re-enacts the battle that took place in 1775.
last year, i took neil. he tried hard not to look british:
(photo by superkate)
and did a 6:30 am ninja gig, my first (and possibly last) ever:
(photo by superkate)
but this….it’s hard to explain, this tradition. it’s in my blood.
it’s what you do on patriots day: the re-enactment, then to some church basement or another for the traditional pancakes, then THE PARADE.
(i crashed the parade when i was 17 with a bunch of theater friends and some stolen shopping carts but that’s a story for another day).
meanwhile….the boston marathon always takes place on the same day.
the day is a state holiday, and the marathon begins west of boston and passes right under lexington.
all this stuff:
it’s our THING. it’s LOCAL.
and this is what i said to pope when i talked to him on the phone last night: i get it now, how you felt when 9/11 happened.
he’s from manhattan, he grew up there.
and the marathon? it’s not even a building and symbol of capitalism…it’s a celebration of achievment. it’s like bombing somebody’s birthday party.
it’s meanness to the core.
i woke up every morning as a kid on patriots day, giddy as for christmas, at 5 am and trundled down the battle green to watch this story unfold again and again.
(the following photos by Joanne Rathe via boston.com)
as i grew older, i started to cry more. as a kid, it was just COOL. as an adult, it became more heartbreaking and depressing every year.
these dudes, these FARMERS WITH GUNS, fighting a squadron of british against whom they had no fucking chance. and the reenactors play it well.
the guys were shit scared. they’d barely ever wielded guns. they had no idea what they were doing.
this is the kind of shit that was hanging in the lexington library (probably still is, i haven’t been there for a while…):
a lot of people tweeted an important fact again and again yesterday….
that these kind of bombings take place EVERYDAY in some people’s lives.
death tolls from iraq from bombings yesterday? something along the lines of 250 wounded, 30 dead.
are we paying attention?
can we pay attention?
can we understand that a human being is a human being?
now, then, here, there?
on a day like yesterday, all these question fly into the air again.
yesterday i watched twitter and the internet break my heart (delivering news)….and turn into a force of good (delivering togetherness).
everybody sharing their thoughts, their pain, their news, their questions.
there was a bunch of goodwill on reddit (free meals, help locating people, places to stay). google sprang into action with a people-finder and other assets for those looking to help, and those who needed it.
were there false alarms? useless calls for blood donations? yes. i don’t think it hurt anybody.
look, i think, at all the people who want to help.
things got dark:
at around 8:30 pm, @youranonnews tweeted a picture.
they warned that it was EXTREMELY GRAPHIC.
i knew i wasn’t going to want to see it. i clicked anyway.
if you want to be haunted and distressed, click the link.
otherwise i don’t recommend it.
i retweeted it, along with the strong warning.
after seeing that, my night was over. all thoughts of work vanished.
i lit a candle.
i went back to the twitter feed. everyone together.
whitney texted from san francisco.
she was checking to see if i was ok, and she asked if i was going to yoga.
she’s three hours behind.
i wished there was a 10 pm yoga class in boston.
i texted her to dedicate her practice to the people who lost their legs. i hope she didn’t take it the wrong way.
i thought about going a late-night ninja-gathering on cambridge common, but between the city-wide calls for people not to congregate and the weirdness of dealing with potentially weird energy (i didn’t want to be a celebrity, i wanted to be a person), i didn’t do it.
but i wanted to somehow feel the collective sadness.
i asked if anyone on twitter wanted to join me in a 2-minute moment of silence.
a thousand people raised their hands.
so from 9:00-9:02 pm, we held a moment of silence.
at 9:01, i shit you not, our random weekly houseguest, liz duffy adams, who’s teaching a playwriting course at harvard, walked in the front door into the kitchen.
i was sitting in the dark, with a candle lit, in front of my computer, feeling the collected energy of thousands of people meditating on twitter.
i looked like i was holding a strange séance.
what do you say?
she barely knows me.
i said: “hey liz! how are you! this is kind of weird but i’m holding a moment of silence on twitter. hang on.”
she put some cookies on the table and brewed some tea. i finished my moment of silence and posted two self-sharpie’d pictures.
the last picture i posted put me over the twitter limit for the second time that day. not a tweet too soon.
“i keep meaning to use my twitter account” she said. “i don’t really understand it.”
i looked back at my computer and thought of every person i’d connected, and connected with over the course of the day.
i’ll give her a twitter lesson.
i went to sleep and woke up and went to yoga.
all i could do was feel my feet, my ankles, my knees, my toes….their very existence.
and feel grateful.
keep on running
Click HERE to donate & find additional about The One Fund Boston…
…Setup to help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston on April 15th 2013.