Last Monday was my birthday. April 15th. From now on, it will also be the anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing.
The date itself already lives in infamy. Of course, here in the U.S., it's Income Tax day, which never seemed so bad when I was a child, but — oy vey — writing those checks now? I'd have to get an awful lot of birthday gifts to make up the difference!
April 15th is also the day the Titanic sunk. The ill-fated liner actually hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm on the 14th. But it took a few hours for the "unsinkable" ship to sink. More than 1,500 people lost their lives.
Similarly, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by actor assassin John Wilkes Booth late the evening of the 14th. He died early the following morning.
As everyone now knows, two bombs were detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last week. Three people died and nearly 200 were wounded, many losing limbs. Thousands of lives will never be the same. So, the terrible baggage associated with April 15th has grown heavier.
On the afternoon of the 15th last year, we were in Boston's Back Bay. In fact, we were right at the Marathon's finish line, almost exactly at the time when the explosions went off this year. Let me explain. It was a milestone birthday for me (the big 5-0) and it happened to fall on a Sunday. I asked my husband and teenage daughter to forego their typical weekend activities (working on his car and riding her horse, respectively) and spend the day with me in the city. They agreed and did even better, surprising me with the inclusion of my best friend and her husband, all the way from Ohio.
We drove in and parked near the North End. We walked up and over Beacon Hill (it was a glorious spring day), through the Public Gardens, stopped for brunch on Arlington Street and walked down Newbury to Copley Center. The Boston Marathon would be the next day (it's always on Monday, Patriot's Day here in Massachusetts), and the viewing stands and media bridges were already set up. My girlfriend and I jokingly took pictures of our husbands posed mid-stride, dashing over the finish line (and looking surprisingly un-sweaty in their oxford shirts and chinos). I tried to get my daughter to pose as well. She declined.
This year, I was working and learned about the bombs through a text from my husband, who was at his office in Boston. It was just after 3:00.
"Bombs at Marathon!"
"At least 12 serious injuries"
I brought my laptop downstairs and turned on the TV. And, chances are, you know the rest.
Within hours, I had concerned inquiries from friends and family as near as New York and as far as London and Monaco. My friend in New Orleans forwarded a sympathetic message from her young daughter. Newtown had happened on her birthday.
We've all lost so much. But I prefer to take the advice of the late Mr. Rogers' mother. This quote has been much posted and tweeted recently, for good reason.
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."
And, events like the Marathon Bombing put things like that into perspective. How precious life is. How kind and brave and compassionate most people are. How blessed we are to be whole and healthy when others are not. How blessed we are to be able to help those others when we can.
The only thing I lost personally was my birthday. Because this year, a day of joy and creation became a day of terror and destruction.