My experience through 9/11 was more than vivid, since I was living about 4 blocks from the World Trade Center at the time, just beginning my first year in law school. I was lucky to have gone to campus early that day, missing the explosions, which would have meant a chaotic evacuation from my highrise apartment on West Street, likely to leave me stranded in Staten Island.
I don’t want to write about that “day of infamy,” which I remember in remarkable detail. What I want to write about are the bombings from yesterday’s Boston Marathon and how much more emotional I seem to be feeling here from Hong Kong.
I spent some amazing years in Boston. It’s an incredible city and if you’re lucky enough to live there for some time, you would understand how it just sticks to you. Its sports fans are famously avid, its landmarks are steeped in history, and its community just feels so old and connected to each other.
Having gone to college there, I still know so many people who continued to live in the area, plus quite a few of my friends from law school and high school relocated to this amazing city. I knew people who had gone to spectate or even run that day – so I was quick to scour social networks to be assured that everyone I knew from the Boston area were ok. They thankfully are.
But for purposes of contrast, I go back to my 9/11 experience. That day, I just felt busy — my friends and I first gathered to find a hospital to donate blood, only to find out that none was needed, since there were no survivors. Next we set off to get information. The city was in lockdown mode, cell service was almost 100% down, and we needed to know what was happening – or what to do, especially me, with my apartment at the heart of Ground Zero!
I remembered us huddling at a dive bar near the law school, all eyes on the television.
Fast forward to Patriots Day 2013, and I’m just waking up to start my day. I turn on Pearl, which shows Bloomberg West at around 6 or so, and the usual broadcast is cutting to a short speech by President Obama – and this is when I first find out what has happened. I am in horror, and feel an attack on my people – especially having been a long-term guest of Boston myself. I feel horror as I learn what has happened – and am anxious to know when I can find out more.
Our day begins in Hong Kong, and we don’t get much info, and I suspect it will be a few more days til we understand anything. But every time the subject has come up in conversation, which it easily does, since most folks want to know my reaction as an American, I start to feel a kind of upset I did not even feel during 9/11 when I was actually rendered temporarily homeless!
I feel like crying – though not quite so extreme. I think it weird, myself, since noone I knew was hurt, and it isn’t even my hometown. I just keep getting very upset – every time I hear about the lost limbs, the very young age of one of the three victims, the way the bomb was constructed. I feel this strange mixture of sadness, shock, and grief.
And not to downplay similar tragedies, terrors, and horrors in other parts of the world that happen and keep happening – this one just seems to affect me differently.
My only guess as to why it is extra emotional for me is that I feel too far from my loved ones — not just my friends in Boston, but my own family in New York. When something like this hits so close to home, you just want to be there near family and friends.