While the smoke was clearing at the Boston Marathon and the media was scrambling to figure out the who and the why and how many and what now, I buried myself in my housecoat and slippers and poured tall boozy coffees at three in the afternoon and tried to resist the pull of clicking over to CNN or any news site at all, really. The word had come over the airwaves via a single tweet from a friend praying for Boston, and from there my curiosity got the better of me and really did kill the cat, and once that clip of the first detonation had wormed its way onto my monitor there was no way in hell I was going to make it past the front door today, not even to go around the side of the house to the laundry shed (our laundry machines live in a shed because, you know, Vancouver.)
When the Twin Towers went down on my fourteenth (or was it fifteenth?) birthday, I remember going to a school that was as quiet as the grave save for the televisions in every classroom locked on the news channels, all piping in the same footage and baffled commentary, the How Could This Be Happening’s blending with teenage confusion and the stuttering words of our school chaplain who was struggling to find something comforting from Corinthians or somesuch. There wasn’t a general assembly, not from what I remember, but after school my parents hugged me closer than usual and insisted we still go out to dinner because it was my birthday after all, no matter what else might be happening in the world. Though even when we got to the Tony Romas that night for a platter of ribs and some respite the clips were still playing on a loop long after the blow had been struck, on televisions above the lounge where you’d normally only find hockey games and beer commercials. The day after, a half-baked grade-twelve kid was running around everywhere telling any stoner who’d listen that we’d be next because Canada had the oil and was easy to attack until a stern-faced Spanish social-studies prof pulled him aside for a Very Serious Discussion.
In the days after, blood always rushes to the wound. There are Jehova’s Witnesses on my street going door to door, pressing tracts in through the cracks and asking if we’d thought at all about why God let this happen to the poor marathoners who just wanted to finish their trek and grab a bottle of Gatorade before heading home. They smile and talk pretty and promise a whole host of answers and free coffee if I’d only just show up to staunch the bleeding, wrap myself in the balm of This Is Simply Part Of A Bigger Plan and leave content. Part of me, the angry teenage atheist who saw cutting knives in the smiles of the oh-so-polite Catholic classmates, wanted to lash out, to get righteous and indignant and ask how dare they try to capitalize on a tragedy by trying to worm their way into people’s hearts and minds when they’re at their most vulnerable.
But then again, maybe they’re just as vulnerable as the scared soul on the other side of the door who’d rather not leave the house today, only they mustered the guts to pull on some pants and go outside.