Saturday, June 8, 2013


I was only here a week when the bombs exploded. I had traveled, cross country, to take a temporary job with Cambridge Public Schools in Massachusetts. Cambridge would be a halfway point between Vermont and New York, and it had been a long time since I had family in two directions. When I moved to Oregon in the late 90s, everyone I cared about lived in one direction and one direction only - east.

The Friday before the bombs, five days into my new job, a welcoming and friendly colleague asked if I wanted to meet her at the marathon to watch the runners. Typically, watching something like the Boston Marathon would have suited me perfectly, but that second week of April was spring break for Cambridge Public Schools and I already had plans to drive to Vermont to visit my aunts and uncle. "I can't," I said, "but have fun."

Less than 72 hours later, Boston exploded. Within the week, Boston, Cambridge, and the surrounding towns, including Waltham, where I now lived, were locked down. People had lost limbs; others life. All of Boston suffered. Not having TV where I was in Vermont, I tuned in by texts and online media. I pictured my dark, empty apartment that I hardly knew. I wondered if the neighborhood was awake with police sirens. Were my neighbors scared? I considered returning to Oregon.

The night before I was to go back to Waltham, my aunt asked, "How are you?" She knew I'd gone to work only five times; had barely a friend in the Boston area. "That whole place is hurting," I said. "How will I talk to anyone?" I couldn't imagine trying to relate to people I'd only met a handful of times about the terror they experienced in their city, and the pain associated with it. See, Boston wasn't mine to talk about - not to the people who lived there anyway. What did I know about their suffering? 

I called my partner. "Please come," I said.

The following day, the day after one suspect was killed and the other captured, my partner flew in from Oregon and I drove from Vermont. I think it's fair to say the trip was a bit surreal, but also inspiring. A city that faced horror for a week remained true to its 18th century roots and stood united and proud before the world. Boston Strong signs hung on bridges and in people's windows. MassDOT changed their road signs from "Please Drive Slowly" and "Don't Text While Driving" to "Thank You Watertown" and "Thank you Boston." I came to understand that if my home town were attacked while I were away, I would want to return immediately. I would be proud to stand strong with my fellow Portlanders and claim our city, but to return to a grieving town where I'd lived for less than a week felt voyeuristic. 

I picked my partner up at the airport. We ordered Thai and drank wine at home. Talked about the bombings. Watertown is only a mile away; Copley Square just a few more. What happened to our neighborhood hung in the air like thick wet towels that you want to put away, but can't because they're dank and heavy, and still require attention. After awhile, we simply went to bed to escape the heaviness that hung over all of Greater Boston.

Not one to be plagued by clouds for long, I woke the next day with renewed spirit. I lived here now, and would for the next three months. My partner would be here off and on during that time as well. We knew we hurt differently than our neighbors, but still, we grieved with them and for them, as did the country. We're in this together, we realized. We're all Boston Strong. 

Later that day, we went to the wildlife refuge for balance. The air still hung heavy, but had the promise of drying in time.

At the refuge, we were reminded to take it slowly, 

that hiding in the reeds feels good sometimes,

but so does coming out from behind one's covering

to reveal a truer self

and soar.


  1. That's beautiful, Lisa.
    I remember those first moments and days very well. I was torn up inside, somewhat because I recall those feeling on 911, but mostly because this time you, MY DAUGHTER, was involved and near the deadly danger. I remember saying to my friends that I was angry at God because of ALL the cities in the entire country, it had to happen there, where my daughter was, FINALLY near me.
    I thanked your dad, Richie, for giving you and us Vermont and that you were there, far away from Boston, when the bombings happened.
    I'm so sorry that you had to go thru that, Lisa. And now, I THANK GOD, that you ended up OK. Love you forever, Mom

  2. Thanks, Mom. You know I don't share the God sentiments, but I know what you mean. It was a very strange way to start the Boston experience. And I'm always thankful for Vermont too - thankful to both you and Dad for giving it to us. xxoo