The City of Boston Will Rise

Reflecting on the Boston Marathon Bombings one year later

bostonWhenever I move to a city, something big seems to happen. When I moved to St. Louis in 2006, the Cardinals won the World Series. When I moved to Chicago, President Obama was elected in 2008 and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010. And when I moved to Boston last year, the Red Sox won the World Series. Each of these events united the city I lived in, and I spent much time partying in the streets, as they say.

However, in April 2013, I experienced something that united a city, yet was a tragedy. Not only a tragedy for Boston, but for the entire nation.

The day of the Boston Marathon bombings began as a beautiful day. The sun was shining, and you couldn’t imagine better weather for a marathon. The entire city shut down, and I was eager to join the festivities in the streets. I was also there to watch a good friend and Jesuit run. Seeing him run through the street in Kenmore Square, I couldn’t have been prouder. He was just over a mile away from the finish line.

I had never been to a marathon finish line, but that day, I decided I should go. I was supposed to meet my friend around there, anyway, and who wouldn’t want to see the excitement at the end of a race well run. I made my way down near Copley Square, and soaked in the excitement. I snapped a few pictures, even ones near the rows of international flags, which would become tragically iconic in the hours to come.

I never thought, as a resident assistant at Boston University where I attend graduate school, that I would have to use the emergency procedures that we were taught in training. I never thought I’d be handed a roster of my residents and asked to report back on whether or not each person was alive and accounted for.

I met my friend at the end of his run, met his parents, and celebrated his great achievement. Afterward, I wanted to go to Trader Joe’s (I’m sort of weird like that), and told everyone I was going to go back on Boylston Street, back through the finish line. “You should just go back by a side street,” my friend said. “It’s going to keep getting more crowded down there.”

His advice was both practical and prophetic. Thank God I didn’t go back down Boylston that day. Thank God my friend ran the marathon quickly. He finished a little more than an hour before the bombs went off.

The days after the marathon were jarring, at best. A few things will always remain with me: the images from the news; the crying I heard in the dorm hallways that afternoon. There were the vacant streets on the day of “shelter in place,” when everyone was mandated by Gov. Patrick to stay inside and all personal cars, taxis and public transportation were banned — it was an eerie scene, and was accompanied by a feeling only our relatives who had witnessed air raid drills during World War II and the Cold War could relate to. I never thought, as a resident assistant at Boston University where I attend graduate school, that I would have to use the emergency procedures that we were taught in training. I never thought I’d be handed a roster of my residents and asked to report back on whether or not each person was alive and accounted for.

There were positive memories, too. When I attended the memorial service for Lu Lingzi at Boston University, I distinctly remember a moment after all the tributes had been given and the ceremony was nearly done. After being presented with a signed banner, her family, who had flown across the world to attend, rose, in unison, and bowed to the audience behind them. I wept. They seemed so grateful. I marveled at how they could be so grateful when the United States, the country they trusted with their only child, had also been the place of her death.

This year when we mark the one-year anniversary of the bombings, I and most everyone else in Boston will be there. We’ll be out in force, to show that we must not live life in fear. We must celebrate the memory of those who died, the achievement of those who run, and the spirit of the city of Boston.

I find it somewhat appropriate that the marathon, this year, is being run on Easter Monday. In reflecting back on the marathon tragedy, I have come to find much biblical imagery in the event that mirrors the Passion of Christ.

The day that Christ carried his cross to Golgotha, the streets were filled on either side, not with cheering crowds but with jeering crowds. It was an event that everyone would have known about and everyone would have watched. Christ pushed on with a sense of purpose, much like the marathon runners will run with a sense of purpose. Like the end of Christ’s journey through the streets, the marathon of 2013 ended tragically. However, there was goodness, too. Everyone who ran toward the bombs was like a modern-day Simon of Cyrene. They probably went to the marathon that day thinking they were simply there to have a good time. Instead, they came from the crowds to help those who were fallen, much like Simon came to the aid of the fallen Christ. The mourning that took place in the days that followed reminded me of the women who mourned Christ at the foot of the cross, weeping and trying to make sense of it all. And the silence in the streets on the day of shelter in place was like Christ’s time in the tomb: a period of silence and waiting.

Then, Christ rose from the dead in splendor and triumph. And this year, just one day after Easter, the city of Boston will rise. It will rise from the tragedy of loss in a resurrection of hope, a resurrection of the triumph of the human spirit. For Christ has shown us and told us that death is not the end. That evil will not prevail. We believe in a resurrection Christ. Christ rose from the despair of evil, and this year, the city of Boston will rise, too.

Christina Gebel

Christina Gebel is originally from Cincinnati, OH and holds B.A.’s in psychology and theology from Saint Louis University as well as a Master of Public Health in maternal and child health from Boston University. After college, she spent two years as a full-time volunteer with Amate House in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys writing, photography, and serving as a doula and Lamaze childbirth educator. She currently resides in Boston, working in the field of public health. Christina's area of interest is maternal and child health as well as combining faith with health.