Note: Following the Marathon bombings, and the subsequent citywide lockdown, we took a conscious decision to keep the blog free of commentary about both—despite several contributors volunteering. A literary journal isn’t the place for punditry or analysis of current events, we decided, and there were plenty of other places to find that if you were looking.
Yet when one of our own, Sarah Banse, asked to write this very personal account of her ex-husband’s injury near the finish line, and the days that followed, we felt she had something valuable to say—not as a pundit or a commentator, but as a mother and a writer. We present it now, without further commentary. —Andrew Ladd, Blog Editor
The events of April 15 collectively shook us to our core—our city, our marathon, our children. The world was inundated with horrific images, round the clock coverage and speculation. The worst of humanity gave rise to the best: heroism, unity, and resolve. I admire the solidarity, yet I feel strangely removed from Boston Strong. When the unthinkable becomes personal, it adds a level of alienation to the collective sorrow. Yet in the end, that alienation is a gift.
My ex-husband and the father of my four children left his office on Boylston Street early on Marathon Monday. He wasn’t running or watching, just going to get his car out of the Prudential parking lot. Wrong place, wrong time—unlucky some might say. As a writer though, I know it’s all about perspective. In my house we feel blessed and know that in fact, the gods were smiling on him. Despite two weeks in the hospital and a to-be-determined amount of time in rehab, he hasn’t lost any limbs or his eyes, and we expect him to make a full recovery. Each day we see more hope and strength, and for my children, that strength comes from their father and those taking care of him.
When I hear about the anger and the pundits and those who in hindsight question aspects of the lockdown, I’m thankful we’ve had the television off (well, other than SpongeBob, Parks and Rec, and an occasional Dance Moms). When Newtown happened, I got sucked into the coverage, grieved, and keened for those parents. I got angry.
I don’t have the energy for anger now. I’ve got children to take care of and what I want them to see is the good in the world and the kindness that has resulted from this. My eldest son is angry and I told him that he has every right to be, but that it can’t consume him. My children’s lives are forever changed but I’ll be damned if I allow them to wallow in darkness.
Quite frankly, we didn’t need news coverage—we had hospital visits. My eldest son got to meet President Obama, though the take away for him had little to do with being in the presence of the most powerful man in the world, and everything to do with the fact that his father, just moved from ICU with major leg injuries, stood up to have his picture taken with his son and the president. I reminded my child that he was made of the same stuff.
When my middle child’s school was celebrating Boston Strong and they were encouraged to wear Boston Sports Team clothing, he instead wore his father’s rugby sweatshirt from New Zealand. His little brother went to school with the mantra, “My dad fought the bomb and my dad won.” His sister has them all convinced that the victim assistance fund will get them a puppy. Perspective.
On Friday morning, I woke to robo calls telling me my kids’ schools were closed because of the lockdown. At 6:00 a.m. I realized I was faced with the new horror of trying to assure my children they were safe in the world, even though terrorists had exploded a bomb on their father. So, for me, the lockdown was not too much. That show of force gave me the tools I needed to protect my children.
When my younger boys, aged ten and twelve asked me what was happening, I told them it was just like when we had the blizzard, and they shut down the roads to keep everyone out of harm’s way. They knew there were bad guys out there, but I could tell them in all honesty that everyone in Boston was doing their part to make them safe. And I had to believe it, because what else did I have?
In a strange way, the media coverage reminds me of the inner critic that we all deal with, often loud and unrelenting. Pounding us with uncertainty and confusion telling us we don’t have it right over and over again. This experience has taught me it is imperative to turn it off. Anger begets anger and we know what hatred leaves us with. My perspective is the legacy I leave my children and it matters—inner critic be damned.
Remember, in life and in writing: point of view is everything.Might we be so bold as to suggest that you subscribe to Ploughshares?