I was on the Common late Friday night, and I found myself all too aware of the fact that I wasn’t cheering. The crowd I had followed from Marsh Plaza all the way down Comm Ave was chanting and occasionally singing, but I was silent. Once I clapped at a police van, but nothing beyond that. Perhaps it would have been different had I gone with friends, I don’t know. I went for a walk to be outside after a long day watching local news (as a journalism student, I feel compelled to credit the work done by local TV and the Globe, who did outstanding work where other outlets failed), and ended up following the crowd. But as it turned out, as relieved as I was, I wasn’t ready to celebrate.
The last time Boston saw gatherings like these, they marked the death of Osama Bin Laden. But Bin Laden was killed nearly ten years after 9/11. Survivors had long since left the hospitals, and the dead had long since received their funerals. We escaped the period of daily uncertainty and fear, and a decade had passed without any foreign attack on anywhere near that scale. Politicians had the time pass countless laws to try and ensure that. The hunt for Bin Laden, even, seemed to have been pushed to the background. Unless you were in the CIA or the White House, you didn’t wake up that day thinking, “hey, maybe we’ll get Bin Laden today!” The news came as a welcome surprise, and it served as long overdue closure.
The arrest of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, at least on Friday night, didn’t seem to be the end of the story. There are still motives we don’t know, people in the hospital, and others who haven’t yet adjusted to lost limbs. Martin Richards hasn’t had his funeral. When the crowd went down Comm Ave, we were a block away from a street that was blocked off as a crime scene.
Occasionally a passerby would ask what the crowd was all about, and these questions were mostly met by chants of “U-S-A.” For the record, the newly arrested Tsarnaev brother has lived in this country half his life, and, as of September 11th, 2012, is an American citizen. When we got to the Common, it seemed to me that for every chant of “B-P-D” or “We love Boston,” there was a rendition of the olé song. And then there was a moment of silence. I joined in on that.
When I took the T back to Kenmore, the train rolled right through an unlit Copley station.
Look: I don’t mean to criticize anyone’s celebrations. We all react differently to events like the ones we witnessed last week. Applauding the police officers and assorted first responders is a wonderful thing. They deserve all the praise we can give them, and then some. But I couldn’t bring myself to yell and shout on the Common. Having spent a day on lockdown, and a week with helicopters overhead, I fully understand the desire to get outside, to blow off some steam. Maybe we were celebrating a freedom from fear. Maybe the USA chants were meant to reflect that, this past week aside, we live in a country where we can hear sirens and not wonder how many people just lost their legs. But at least to me, the wounds feel too fresh for joy.
Am I just a buzzkill? Should I have sung along on Saturday, when Neil Diamond flew in to sing “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway? Or does anyone else think that this all might have been a bit much?