A letter to my daughter on April 16th, 2013

My dear Rosie Mae,

I’m writing to you less than 24 hours after our beloved city was bombed. I want you to have an account of what happened before further information changes the story. Before it becomes a terrorist attack from abroad like 9/11 or a terrorist attack from a lunatic like Newtown, CT. We don’t yet know why it happened or who made it happen… we just know that it happened. I apologize in advance for this stream-of-consciousness format; we’re all having a hard time organizing our thoughts and while I like to think I once was eloquent, I fear I’ve lost that trait so I’m sure this will be all over the place.

I, like many of our fellow Americans (and people all over the globe), have felt uneasy ever since 9/11. Usually, I push that little voice inside away and persevere with my day. Some days that voice gets a little louder, and sometimes it screams. It screamed a little bit when we decided to start trying to have a baby back in 2011. “What on earth are you thinking bringing a child into this crazy place?!,” it said. But we pushed that voice away, just like all the other parents starting families do, and you came to be. I mentioned to your father yesterday that one of my first thoughts, after confirming everyone I knew was safe and alive, was “I’m so sorry I brought you into this,” as I looked at you playing happily, oblivious to the horrors going on. Your father, in his wise way, pointed out that we had to bring you into this – and so do all the other parents making life – because if we didn’t the world would surely implode into doom and gloom. But by bringing up good kids – or at least trying as hard as we can to do so – there is a glimmer of hope.

Sometimes, when tragedies strike, as they seem to do more and more often, a reaction is to just give up. I know after Newtown, I said, “Ok, that’s it. I guess I’m home-schooling.” Moments later I realized that wasn’t going to work for anyone involved and happily looked forward to your attendance at our local public school here in Weymouth. And other times I have thought, “we’re never leaving the house again.” But, we can’t do that, little one. We have to go out and enjoy every bit of this crazy world that it offers us. Not only because, hey, a meteor could fall right on our house so who knows, but also, because okay, maybe we do all blow up tomorrow… at least we lived life to the best of our ability today.

No matter how well I protect you while also letting you be free, you’re going to get scared in life. You’re going to eventually think about these things. I remember years back, talking over the dinner table with my mother and some other people. I nonchalantly said, “when the bomb hits, or the aliens zap us, or the tsunami rolls through, I hope I am right in the center so I go immediately. I’m obviously going to want to fight for my life and probably to no avail, so I hope I just get wiped out right away so I don’t have to bother.” It was a snarky comment about being lazy. But a look came over my mother’s face and she said, “I can’t believe you have ever had to think about something like that.” Rosie Mae, I can’t believe you’ll ever have to think about anything but ice cream, cute boys (or girls), and how much you love your awesome parents, but… you will. You’ll have to face something like this someday, I’m afraid. Even if it’s as an onlooker from a distance with no connection whatsoever to the event, you’ll have to face it.

Horrible things have been happening throughout all of time. Plagues, tsunami’s, ships sinking, entire species being wiped out by meteors (your Auntie Katie is still upset about the dinosaurs). These are all things we can’t stop – we can’t prevent. So, no matter what, no matter how nice we are to each other, they’ll happen. People will die. People will get hurt. It’s sad and hard and awful. In the insurance industry, these events are called Acts of God. They can’t be avoided and you will experience them in your life someday.

What I wish for you, ever so foolishly, is that you never (from this day on), experience the other horrible things. The avoidable ones. Bombs being specifically planted to have the most impact possible. People boarding planes with the intent to die on them and bring an incredible amount of people down with them. Gun-toting psychopaths walking into a school to kill everyone there. And… and… and…

Yesterday, we were in the city. Yes, my little one, you, me, and Auntie Katie were less than two miles away from the bombs that went off. Your father was even closer. Your 2nd cousin was around the corner from the bombs. And my old friend from Southie was right there. She was injured but thankfully only with a stitched up leg. Another acquaintance from Southie was there too – with her two young daughters. One was knocked over from the impact but remained unharmed. The other was completely unharmed but is terrified and traumatized from all that she felt/saw/experienced. Their grandmother is in the hospital undergoing surgeries from her injuries. This bomb didn’t just hit home because it was in Boston. It hit home because it was in Boston. Boston is home.

You will grow up as a girl from Weymouth. But you’ll have strong ties to Boston because we will go in to town all the time, as we already do. I’m from Boston. I grew up there – right in the city – and it’s mine. I have memories in every corner. You will, too. I will make sure of it. You’ll have roamed the Museum of Fine Arts as a little girl just as I did. You’ll know the inside of The Children’s Museum like the back of your hand. You’ll know how to get around on the subway. You’ll know the quickest way to get from Fenway Park to Downtown Crossing on foot. You’ll know how exhausting and exhilarating it is to climb up the Bunker Hill Monument. Maybe you’ll even make friends with the old guys that run the exhibit at the bottom like I did when I used to go every day while my mom worked at a daycare around the corner. Probably not, but you’ll make your own memories that have a similar comfort to them. Boston, though not your zip code, will be a part of your home.

You and Auntie Katie enjoying the sites and sounds of the city. These photos were taken mere moments after the bombs went off. We had no idea.

Yesterday, we were in the city. Today, we’re heading back. Bostonians don’t just hide from something like this. We puff our chests out and clench our fists (not necessarily for a fight – more for determination) and walk proudly. THIS is what I want you to know about, which is why I’m writing to you today instead of a week from now. I want you to know that horrible things happen – but from them the beauty of humanity explodes. Yesterday a bomb went off. And a huge HUGE amount of people ran toward it. They broke down barriers and clamored over fences to reach those who needed help. They carried people to safety. Even when a second bomb went off close by, they continued to run toward those who needed them. This is an amazing thing. There is a brotherhood among all of the people in this world. It does exist. Focus on that when horrible things happen.

This quote always reassures me in times like this:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

Not only were the people in the area rushing to help, but people from all over ran to blood banks to donate. And, kiddo, this happened:

There are names, thousands of names of people in the Boston area with standing offers to help those displaced by the horrifying explosions near the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon. By Monday evening, the Google document had become more than a resource for the stranded. It became a viral statement of solidarity from the proud people of Massachusetts.
Links to the list can be found on the front page of the Boston Globe website. “Have a place to offer?” the website reads. “Fill out this form.”
There are email addresses and phone numbers for nearly every entry. And there are messages.
“I don’t live in the city,” reads one, “but can come get anyone who needs a place to stay.”
“I live in Hopkinton,” reads another, “but would happily drive anywhere to pick up a runner who needs food, shelter and comfort.”
“Space for one person on a pull-out couch,” goes a third. “Will cook you a nice meal too!”
The list goes on and on, filled with sudden patriots on a terrible Patriots Day. One man offers not only his place, but offers to sleep somewhere else so a stranded runner can sleep in his bed. One woman from Cambridge writes she will pay for the taxi ride from wherever. Someone from Somerville apologetically says he has to work late but he’ll leave early and head straight home if anyone has a need.
-Article from Yahoo! Sports.

Today, tomorrow, or even a week from now, there may be repercussions from this event. Like I said, I write to you now to embrace this moment – where it is only sadness and camaraderie and not yet filled with revenge and hate. It’s a terrible thing that happened yesterday. I still can’t wrap my head around it.

Look for the helpers, Rosie Mae. If the situation ever presents itself (dear God, I hope not), be one. I hope we raise you to be one of the billions of glimmers of hope for the future – and your lights can all come together to shine bright enough to blot out the darkness.

I hope you read this years from now with nary a clue of what I, and my fellow Bostonians, Americans, and others across the globe are feeling right now. I hope your generation do nothing but run around in fields of flowers and perpetual bubbles and ice cream stands. It won’t be that way though; it can’t be. We can only appreciate the light when there is darkness, too.

Love you, little girl. Keep smiling that smile. It keeps the dark away.

Love, Mum.

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