Last Monday’s twin blasts at the finish line of the Boston Marathon were just the beginning of a surreal UUA Board meeting. Most of us arrived Wednesday evening, as the police were still combing through photos with no one claiming credit for the violence. I took the subway, less crowded than usual, but with lots of MBTA officials standing at every subway door, national guard and police readily apparent. As I hauled my suitcase across the Common to Beacon Hill, a young man’s voice right behind me offered to carry the suitcase up the stairs. It was the first offer of help in carrying luggage since I started coming to board meetings (and using the subway) six years ago.
Meetings continued on Thursday, but several people were unable to get into them because the transit system was shut down. The events that started Thursday evening and essentially led to Boston and the surrounding suburbs on “lock down” most of Friday were even more surreal. Financial Advisor Dan Brody, unable to leave his home in Newton, described the eerie quiet of his neighborhood as “an invisible snow storm”. I had made it down to Starbucks early that morning– there was an unusual comraderie in the half full coffee shop. It was shut down by the police right after I left.
Most of us trooped quickly the half block from Pickett and Elliot, the UUA’s inn located behind the headquarters, into 25 Beacon – and stayed there all day. It appeared no one was actually being prohibited from being outside – but everything was closed, and we saw mostly police and heard mostly sirens and helicopters.
When the “shelter in place” was lifted, Kathy Burek (District Presidents Association President) and I walked down as close as we could get to the blast site (2 blocks away from it) where I took the this photo of the impromptu memorial – sacred space so close to tragedy. The cross for the Chinese national (was she Christian?) was tastefully draped with a Chinese flag.
That night the Common was filled with people. People were lining up to shake hands and get their photos taken with the police officers there. What you perceived was a product of your experiences. Was it a group of mostly young men celebrating deliverance by chanting sports slogans? Or was it a drunken mob that could have easily exploded in violence, targeting someone with the “wrong” head gear or facial features?
Being with a group of Unitarian Universalist lay leaders and ministers was not a bad place to be this week. We shared a lot of tears, poetry and prayer – including this beautiful one from Sue Phillips, District Executive for Massachusetts Bay District, at a vigil last Tuesday night, created as a video by Jessica Ferguson.