Classes with my undergraduate students resumed today. I was so glad to see everyone after our class was cancelled last Friday due to the order issued across Watertown, Boston, Cambridge, Belmont and Somerville to “shelter in place.” Before we turned to our discussion on ‘narrative time in fiction,’ we spent a few minutes talking about the shootout and eventual capture of the younger of the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects. One of the students in my class had attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School and confessed he had known Dzhokhar.
“I was in his math class,” he said. “Talk about never being able to truly know someone…” He paused, as if overwhelmed. “On the other hand, I can tell you this: Dzhokhar was terrible at math.”
Like most of us, he was baffled. This is what all of us want to know: Why? A few of my students felt angry. Most were quiet and several looked exhausted. This is the final week of class. Exams take place next week and grades must be turned in by May 6. And then most of these students will head home.
But, I thought, not Lingzi Lu, the Boston University student that was killed a week ago.
Usually after class on Mondays I head to The Writers’ Room to work on my novel but today is my oldest daughter’s birthday and I had promised to bake her a chocolate cake. I bet there are many parents in this city that feel the way I do today: I’m so grateful that my children are safe and that I get to celebrate another birthday.
It was nearly 2:30 by the time I left class. Governor Deval Patrick had called for a moment of silence across the state at 2:50 PM– the exact time of the first explosion one week ago. Ironically, I gave birth to my daughter at 2:55 PM.
I wandered out to the Boston Common and then down Boylston Street and wound up, for the second time in a week, at the memorial. At 2:40 there were already at least 5 rows of people gathered before the cordoned off area located not far from Copley Square. Within five minutes, the crowd had tripled. People talked quietly, some took pictures and then a hush fell and we stood, facing down Boylston toward what had been the finish line.
As a Quaker, I welcomed the silence. I prayed for those that had endured the deafening explosions. I prayed for “no more hurting.” Though I didn’t recognize a single person in the crowd, we were united in both anguish and hope. A bird flew overhead. There was a cool breeze but the afternoon sun caressed my shoulders and I thought about how nature will, in time, fill an empty cup. There will always be more love in the world than hate.
The silence ended with the gradual ringing of church bells, one by one until we were surrounded by the sound. I heard a bell ringing the chorus to Amazing Grace and some in the crowd added a soft accompaniment. I left soon after, and as I walked, I passed other spontaneous memorials– ribbons fluttering, handmade signs, and bouquets of flowers. Like Tibetan prayer flags, each one sending a prayer for peace in every direction, carried by a gentle wind over the finish line and beyond.