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I Am a Bostonian and I Refuse to Be Afraid*

I am now a resident of Beirut and Jerusalem and Baghdad and Kabul and London and Belfast and Oklahoma City. I refuse to be afraid.

Yesterday’s bombings shook my world. Literally. An hour before the bombs blew up, I got off a train at Back Bay station to find my usual path home, past the viewing stands and the Marathon Sports store, closed for the race. Instead, I had to take a circuitous route through the thousands of runners and their loved ones who filled the streets at the finish line. I saw parents looking for sons and daughters; little kids hugging moms and dads; girlfriends and boyfriends kissing. Everyone was happy and excited. I saw greetings of joy and love and respect.

As I walked down the Commonwealth Mall, I noted a string of navy blue government vehicles. They were shiny and clean lining the block between Dartmouth and Exeter Streets. There seemed to be more of them than last year and I wondered about what they were monitoring and how they did their jobs. There was a National Guard unit sitting in a circle, some with marathon medals around their necks, playing a game of catch with an empty plastic bottle. They were having fun. It was a beautiful afternoon and I planned to take the dog out for a walk to the spot from where we cheer on the later runners every year.

As soon as I entered my apartment, two explosions rocked the building. I ran to the window and saw a puff of smoke and people running in terror. Hundreds and hundreds of people were racing away from the marathon route and toward the river. They were running with tears streaming, running holding hands, running covering their hearts. I went outside to see what had happened. No one spoke. No one made eye contact. They were in shock and fleeing. I couldn’t help.

Today I walk my neighborhood. The news crews from around the world are camped in my front yard, and I listen in the hope of constructing the truth of this tragedy. My daughter who lives in New York is frantic with worry: “Please don’t go out. Stay home. Be careful. Don’t walk the dog.” In her cautions I hear myself. But the truth is each day is and must be like the day before. The sun comes out. The rain falls. The wind blows. Life must go on, and we have no choice but to live it. Because we cannot allow whoever has done this cowardly, mean thing to rule our lives. We cannot forget that in this world of billions that there are only a few thugs, and we cannot allow those thugs to win.

I am a Bostonian and I am not afraid.


*This article first appeared in The Huffington Post