The past week on campus has been incredibly surreal. I was at the marathon on Monday, up all night on Thursday and in front of the TV most of Friday watching coverage of the manhunt, and celebrating Friday night when it all came to a close. Jeanie, Inesha, and Rob each gave their own insights into this week’s events, and I would echo much of what they said: it was a scary experience that brought the campus and the city together. I’ve seen and heard echoes of “Boston Strong” again and again in the past few days, and the sentiment could not be more true: everything from the dedicated police response to the incredibly high spirits after the arrest made on Friday demonstrated again and again that Boston is a proud and resilient city.
Having spent nearly four years living in the Boston area, seeing the city unite in the wake of the bombings was unsurprising to me – there is a fierce sense of pride that comes through in Red Sox fanaticism, local politics, and winter weather survival. What surprised me more, actually, was the sense of local pride I saw blossoming in myself and in fellow students over the course of this week. While we are residents in the area, I think many of us don’t necessarily consider ourselves “Bostonians” or “Cantabrigians” if we’re not from here originally. But in the wake of this week’s tragedy, we all were experiencing the pain, sorrow, and eventually triumph along with the rest of the city. For many of us, it was the first real sign that Boston and its community has truly become part of our identity in the years we’ve been living here.
There was a really touching article published in The Atlantic this week entitled “You May Leave Boston, but Boston Never Leaves You” that talked about exactly this sentiment. While we may not realize it consciously, college students living in the Boston area come to this city for some of the most formative years of our life and become part of the “enormous extended family” of people who consider Boston home. For most of us at Harvard, Boston will only be home for a brief while, but it is the city in which we develop into “real people,” come to form a sense of identity, learn to think for ourselves, and join a diverse community. What this week has taught me is that the community that has helped to shape me extends far beyond the walls of Harvard – Cambridge and Boston, and the sense of intense local pride so unique to this area, are just as much a part of the equation.
This sense of connection extends beyond my eagerness to cheer for local sports teams. I’ve spent all three of my summers locally: one at Harvard, one interning downtown for Boston Public Schools, and one working at a consulting firm in Cambridge. I wrote my thesis about the Boston community, and spoke with residents about the best (and worst) parts of the city. I boast about my knowledge of Boston geography, and take pride in my ability to walk around the city without needing a map. In my four years here, I’ve campaigned for local politicians, attended cultural events in Cambridge, and explored the area’s rich history. My attachment to Boston and Cambridge is deep and multifaceted, and in a strange way this week’s tragic events were the first chance I had to really reflect on how much this city has shaped me as a person.
Yesterday, I set off on a long run along the river and through downtown Boston to visit the memorial at Boylston Street and get a glimpse of how the city is bouncing back. I’ll let the following photos speak for themselves, but it was a really moving and uplifting experience to be downtown with countless others venturing out to enjoy the spring weather and celebrate the city in the wake of terror and tragedy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this week, it’s that Boston is strong, and that I’m lucky to have picked up a bit of that strength, pride, and resilience in my short four years here.
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