Thursday, April 18, 2013

Waiting for word

Jacqueline and me before
 the start of the Cape Cod
Marathon, 2012

My attachment to Boston is lifelong.  I grew up near the city, worked and went to school there.  Two of our children attended college there, and Jacqueline works and lives there now. 

I received the first ominous text as I was leaving my dentist's office on Monday. It was from my husband, who assumed  I'd heard about the Marathon explosions because it said:

"Jacqueline is safe."

I had not heard. 

I learned that she was a 1/2 block from the finish line.  A marathon runner herself, Jacqueline had been watching the street below from an apartment rooftop with her friends.  After the explosions, they scrambled to the street and were immediately rushed from the area by police who, my daughter observed, were as frantic in those first moments as they were.

Jacqueline and I couldn’t speak by phone on Monday afternoon. I left her voice messages to retrieve when her service came back. I watched for her on Facebook.

And waited for word.

We separate from our children as we should. But still, we feel linked, connected, as if by a long, thin string that unravels as they travel. Ever retractable, we imagine this line to be, until  in one swift moment, they are there and traumatized, and we are here with our empty arms around ourselves.

The disconnect is terrifying. 

While I waited to communicate with her on Tuesday morning, I sorted through the coverage and  relived my reactions to that first text, that first "breaking news" screen on TV.  But my reactions were tangled, and they were common to us all: tears and grief for the injured and families of the injured.  And, of course, the paralyzing "what ifs" tied to the fear and gratitude I felt for my own child's safety.

There is nothing else to write about this week but the aftermath of such an incident and yet, no unique way to write about it that is within my reach at the moment. So I have borrowed someone else's.

This op-ed by Dennis Lehane for the New YorkTimes discusses the resilience of Bostonians, and why it is more than tough talk when people refer to Boston as "the wrong city to mess with".  It is the best I've read since Monday.

As for Jacqueline, who  light-heartedly reminded me recently that it's been forever since I blogged about her (she's right, it was after her first  marathon two years ago), I observed a little of that Boston resilience this week when, not twenty-four hours after her exposure to the trauma at the finish line, she rose, dressed, and boarded public transportation to go to work,  expecting – even after the day before – that she’d be safe.

Keep the faith of the young.
Borrow the strength of the survivors
Move like the runners. 
Stay alive.

That is all.


  1. Beautifully written, Susan. We hold our children's hearts in our soul, and that is forever. Thank goodness your daughter was unharmed. We all pray for the victims, their families and the injured. We thank the heroes among us who rose to help them. I pray for a better world.


  2. Cathy, thank you. My thoughts this entire week have been of the ones who will have to find the strength and faith to heal both physically and spiritually. I believe they will.

  3. So beautiful, Susan. My daughter is in college in Boston and I totally relate to everything you said. Thank goodness they're both safe. What a scary world we live in. Sending you mother-to-mother hugs.

  4. Thank you, Lois. I almost didn't write it, but you know when you have to. Good to connect with you and find out we have such a nice thing in common.

  5. Oh Susan, We've just virtually met, and my heart goes out to you as a mother of adult children. I love your perfect description of the retractable string that we are attached to them with! I'm so glad she is safe! And now a few days later, you must be so relieved that the bombers have been stopped and caught! I hope that's the end of that. I hope!
    Nina - Over 50 and Happy

  6. Nina, what a really nice comment. Like everyone, I am relieved, and trying hard to keep perspective: this has made me appreciate and savor peace more than it's made me worry about the future. Thank you, Nina, for your nice words.