I haven’t heard “Boston strong” mentioned once in my – mostly African-American – church in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. While the whole Boston area, and by news accounts apparently the whole nation, was fixated on the running of the Boston Marathon this year, and proud, to all appearances, of the resiliency of the people of Boston, coming back so “strong” after last year’s bombings at the end of the marathon, it was as if the thing had never happened, as far as my church was concerned. On any given Sunday, we typically pray about everything, but nary a prayer about “Boston strong” the Sunday before the Marathon.
I did read one article in the Boston Globe at the time of the Marathon that referred to the scores of African-Americans killed each month in street violence in Boston. Why no uproar about that?, the article asked. But for the most part, by my observation, people in the Boston area weren’t of a mind, or didn’t have the heart, for that kind of uproar.
I live in Watertown. Late into the evening of the day of the Marathon bombings, I heard multiple sirens. Must be a large fire somewhere, I thought. Then the sirens became even more strident. So I turned on the television to see what, if anything, of note was happening. It was then that I realized that Watertown had become ground zero for the pursuit of the bombers. Scores of police cars and other emergency vehicles were dashing in every direction, it seemed.
At one point, I looked down on the Charles River, from the vantage point of the roof of my building, and I saw this sight: across the Charles, on Soldier’s Field Road, four police cars were racing north, sirens blasting; down below, on Greenough Boulevard, four police cars were racing south, sirens blasting. Was Greater Boston mobilized?
Life in the area, the next day, as is well known, came to a virtual halt, while thousands of law enforcement personnel searched relentlessly for the bombers. And, of course, most of us had little else to do than to watch CNN doing endless interviews, a number of which were done a few blocks from my building. It was surreal to see locals interviewed in front of the diner, where my wife and I sometimes go for breakfast.
One Sunday several weeks before, in my church, we had prayed for a family known to some in the congregation, who had lost a little girl. She had been playing on her front porch and was hit by random street gunfire. Such deaths add up in places like Roxbury and Dorchester. So does the misery such deaths wreak in the hearts of family members who suffer such losses. But, notwithstanding efforts by neighborhood pastors and churches and a variety of residents, such deaths keep happening, and it’s as if nobody else notices. Such deaths and such misery don’t seem to count as much as the deaths and the misery perpetrated by the Marathon bombers.
Is Boston really strong?