Almost two months have passed since the bombings at the Boston Marathon. To some of you, it may feel just like yesterday. To others, it may be just another example of a world gone tragically mad that is quickly fading into memory.
For runners, the bombings in Boston have become woven into the fabric of our running tapestry. For those fast enough, there are marathons to run to get a Boston qualifier for next year’s marathon. The print publication cycle has caught up, and I can’t pick up a running magazine without reading yet another runner’s account of this year’s Boston. The qualifying attempts and the runners’ stories serve as memorials of a sort, but there’s something in human grief that wants a more tangible memorial. And as a result, Boylston Street is filling with trinkets/treasures/trash.
I was in Boston recently and wanted to go to Boylston Street to see the finish line and the areas affected by the bombings. Yes, I was being a tourist, but I also wanted to offer a prayer there for those still recovering from their injuries and for those who will never get over the loved ones they lost that day.
My husband and I were on our way to the airport for a flight, and so he dropped me off and circled a few blocks while I walked around, puzzled by how little I actually saw left behind:
I was expecting race bibs and signs and finishers’ medals and old shoes and flowers.
What I didn’t realize until later – when I got home and Googled images for Boston bombing memorials – was that the clutter had become so overwhelming that someone (city officials?) decided to move the memorial area to a square nearby.
The square is past the finish line, and therefore beyond the bombing sites, and so maybe that’s why I didn’t think to look there.For those of you who haven’t run Boston (I haven’t), you can easily find the finish line because it is painted on the street.
When the memorial area moved to the square and away from the actual blast sites, these “sweaters” started showing up on street poles. I have no idea where the hearts come from or who pins them there, but I think this is a lovely way to mark the area, perhaps because it seems cleaner and holds the possibility that someone can get a felt heart to pin to the poles with a donation to a worthwhile charity like the One Fund Boston. But that may only be my hopeful imagination at work.
There are reminders all around that Boston is rebuilding and stubborn and strong.
I felt a sense of peace after my visit to Boylston Street, but I also left with more questions than answers. For instance, what happens to all the stuff that gets left behind. How many bracelets can one little tree hold? How can we expect the race medals and stuffed animals to end up anywhere besides the landfill? Does leaving a trinket behind matter to anyone other than the one doing the leaving?
I imagine my mixture of emotions is not uncommon at the site of tragedy, to leave feeling puzzled and a bit lost and wondering at the sense of it all, but also feeling uplifted by the life that continues on.
Maybe that’s why so many visitors to the memorial feel the need to leave something tangible behind: to honor those who are gone, to lift up those still suffering and to remind all who pause to look that, though our hearts are a little heavier, together we can be strong.