After they bombed Boston, I had to sleep with the lights on, even though I was thousands of miles from there. Like a child, I did not want there to be any darkness in which predators, terrorists, or bombs could hide. If only I could keep my eyes open, I would be safe, I believed. I’ve carried around this child-like logic since my first brush with tragedy, and have been unable to shake it since I was four – years – old. Every moment is horrifically painful, and I lack the foresight to see that things will ever be okay again. I am a raw bundle of nerves, affected by each moment, unable to filter.
As a Boston College student studying abroad in Sweden, I have never felt farther from my Boston home. I helplessly checked for status updates and tweets, marveling at modern technology and my ability to keep connected to my friends who were running. After what felt like days, all of my friends had checked in, they were safe, most of them less than a mile from the first bomb that went off, minutes from tragedy. So I stayed glued to the Internet. Refresh, refresh, refresh. Photos that I did not want to see, video that I could hardly stand to watch, words that burned, I took them all.
In times of great fear, when one is all alone in the dark, afraid that there is a bomb in their small bedroom in Sweden, sometimes we need to turn to something basic, like laughter. So I buffered an old episode of the show Parks and Recreation without thinking. As images of small town America flashed across the screen during the intro music, I was comforted by the peace. Boys caught baseballs, parks were filled with sunshine, and Leslie and the gang were up to their usual antics. And though their missions were always noble during these twenty-minute episodes, they worked in a parks department, and nothing carried too much weight. Life was simple.
In these open fields where children play, terrorists do not strike. It’s this belief that maybe life can be simple some day, that lulls me to sleep with the lights on when nights like this happen. As life gets increasingly complicated and scary, I naively cling, and will not apologize. With my four – year – old coping mechanisms, this is really all I can do. The awe at what has transpired is simply too much for me to comprehend. As I continually struggled to realize the immensity of what had happened, I could not help but think of 9/11 and the images that attacked my young mind that day, and play on continuously.
It seems that each time tragedy strikes, I am surprised that it could happen again. After 9/11, I imagined the day when that day’s events would be in my children’s school textbooks. I would struggle to tell them about that day, where I was, how young I was, the fear I felt, and the people I lost. I imagined that they wouldn’t be able to believe that I had been so close to it all, had felt so much. But now I know, this will not flabbergast them, they will be living in their own world of tragedy. At this rate, they will experience so much more pain than I ever did, and I will be awed by all that they will have to survive.
Will life ever really be simple? Or will we continue to have to sleep with the lights on?