By: John Taylor
Loud can signal bad, and loud can signal good. Loud means that whatever is being loud is going to get noticed, gain attention, and leave an impression on everyone with ears to hear it. Loud can signal cheers, and loud can signal screams. On April 15th, two hateful brothers changed the history of the Boston Marathon forever with a loud statement, both figuratively and literally. A mere five days later, the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing had been found and neutralized. I live in a building that lies only a block away from the Common, and I can tell you, the response to this news was loud.
Before I had even heard about the party on the Common from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the cheers echoed down Avery Street and wafted up through my window. Pictures of the event started flooding the net and I was going to be damned if I missed the party of the decade.
“John! There’s a party at the Common. Dude, let’s – ”
“Ready when you are.”
As my friends and I waded into the sea of people swarming around the gazebo at the Common, the energy in the air picked up around us, electrified by the two thousand or more people cheering, chanting, and celebrating the country we live in, the police department that rescued us, and the people that gave each other the support they needed to persevere through such trying times. Instead of taking a breath from the chanting, the pause was often times filled with a toke from a joint in preparation for the following day’s celebration of 4/20 or a swig of alcohol. The sour smell of marijuana and the pungent aroma of alcohol invaded the nostrils, but this blatant use of controlled substances didn’t seem to bother the celebrating police department on the outskirts of the main event.
As a huge portion of the celebration was aimed directly at the Boston P.D., it did not surprise me that the surveying officers let the kids have their fun. Even more so than watching on, many of the officers and many of the kids crossed their respective lines in order to exchange short thanks or give light warnings.
“Thank you, Officer, thank you so much. Thank you and all your other bro-officers for doing, ya know, getting the guy and all. It’s wicked good work.”
“That’s quite alright, you’re welcome. Take it easy now.”
This intense release of tension that the party on the Common found for so many of Boston’s citizens can only be expected after a week of such ragged and trying stress. While many students and young people were actually present at the bombing itself, even the people who were inside all day anyway were greatly affected. People sat glued to their televisions, waiting for a death toll, waiting for a suspect, even some pessimists waiting for another bomb to go off. Cell phone networks crashed dramatically at the time they were needed most as families desperately tried to get in contact with each other. As an international city and an international event, the Boston Marathon bombing was a global tragedy that raised global concern over the whereabouts of 27,000 runners and all of their spectators and supporters.
While information on the perpetrators was extremely limited in the days to come, many people had already slipped into a false sense of security the day after the bombings. The terrible event of the year had already come, what else bad could happen? This was why many people were in shock, doubly so, when reports of a shooting at MIT illuminated the Internet once again and then reports of gunfire, explosions and grenades began littering Facebook, Twitter, and newsrooms. With a city on lockdown, the entire world waited for Boston P.D. and the F.B.I. to find the second suspect of the bombings after the first was reported dead. The people of Boston especially awaited news of a capture, hoping to feel safe again in their beloved city. It was only moments after the peaceful resolution was announced that people began their exodus to the gazebo.
“U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!”
“Boston Strong! Boston Strong!”
With the concentration of craziness at the gazebo, it was easily determined that that’s where I had to go. I pushed, pressed and picked my way through the crowd, sweaty body to sweaty body as the shouting and occasional boom-box blasting gradually deafened my friends and me. I passed by someone going the opposite direction that I knew and asked her how she was doing, if she was having fun. She shouted above the noise.
“I just spent fifteen minutes trying to escape the gazebo. Shit is packed!” She was right. As I looked ahead, scores of people struggled in the area within and surrounding the white monolith, a monument now to the surviving party-fever of the strong people of Boston. After looking closely, I noticed that while many pushed and pressed to get into the gazebo, at the same time, as many others were trying to get out. The party started thin at the outskirts, slowly grew denser and finally became a human meat grinder at the party’s hub. Spotted throughout the crowd, alcohol, pot and even naked people circulated, doubling back on itself, trading and exchanging consumers as much as they traded patriotism, Boston pride, and the hollow victory that echoed on Friday night.
“It’s over! We got him, and it’s over! We won! America fucking won!”
“How’d it even take this long? U.S.A! U.S.A! Hash-tag Boston strong!”
“Don’t fuck with Boston! Now the whole world fucking knows it! You fuck with us, we shut down the city, we hunt you down, we find you! We fucking find you! Boston strong!”
As each person joined in the chanting and occasionally spewed their own particular sense of victory, the cycle of positive thoughts and the success story of America solidified further, driving home the point of our perfection and indestructibility. But while the two suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing had been taken care of, a criminal much more devastating remained at large. I began to stumble in the crowd, looking for a place to stand without sharing breath, somewhere that didn’t stink, an area where people weren’t yelling, screaming at me about strength and victory… I couldn’t find one. Next to me, someone backed up to avoid touching a naked dude and spilled his beer all over my back, locking the stench of it to my body. As I had ventured in, I now ambled out. When I turned back to look at the surging crowd, leaping up and down with the rhythm of the chanting, I felt a sudden, jerking shiver.
The scary part of this event wasn’t the possibility of death. It wasn’t the fear of not knowing who lived and died, who did it and why, or if it was even over yet. The idea that sent shivers down my spine was only solidified when press released the information that the brothers were self-radicalized, and as nationalized U.S. citizens, were domestic terrorists. What scared me – scares me – is the fact that we built these people, and that we hadn’t only created them the day of the bombing. They had been living in this country, even in this city, for years. They endured a system that drove them to this point, to this terrible, horrific point in their lives where bombing a city seemed like the right thing to do. There are no bad guys in real life, only those we see as right or wrong. They thought they were helping their cause and doing something right. And we the people, celebrating their failure, were part of the world that created them. We live in it still; we celebrate it anyway. And if they could live here for years, who else is waiting to do the same? What other people are finding themselves making bombs? While we celebrate, I wonder who watches the news coverage of this party and thinks to themselves, “If only I’d had a bomb ready for that!”
The Tsarnaev brothers seemed like anyone else to all their friends and acquaintances, and this forces us to ask ourselves: is anyone else out there thinking the same thoughts? Anyone we know? And if we know them, will we be able to hear those thoughts, that downward spiral of hatred, over the deafening, loud, overwhelmingly victorious chants of “U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A…” or will they remain quiet, subtle and scheming, until one day they decide to be loud too?