I was glued to the TV in the wee hours. I saw an ambulance moving into the same space as gunfire and cops and suspects who, at that moment in time, were suspected of killing a cop and carjacking and the media had yet to offer the possible, and later confirmed, connection to the Boston Marathon bombing.
I knew the name of the town very well. Watertown. Alex’s dad and his family are from Watertown. Alex’s Uncle Jimmy is with the fire department, as an EMT-D. I rubbed my eyes and wondered if the person behind the wheel was really Jimmy shaped or if I was just tired and gummy eyed from fitful sleep.
We moved away eight years ago, and most of the time life is passing by at such an intense clip I feel like we should all be wearing safety goggles and helmets. Last week, with the news of the bombing at the marathon and a few days later with the events in Watertown, I was glad to be 2000 miles away, somewhere not necessarily safer but the illusion is there when you are watching all hell break loose via cable TV. At the same time, I was so homesick my whole body ached. Boston was my first home, as an adult. Watertown is part of my narrative, of our family story.
I kept watching. Everyone else was asleep. I went into the den and told my spouse, “Dude! Wake up! Explosions in Watertown!” He acknowledged that I had spoken but it wasn’t until daylight that he woke up and tried to figure out if I had said those words or if he had been dreaming. ”Did you wake me up in the middle of the night talking about explosions in Watertown?”
I hollered at him to call his mom. I was hoping that Jim wasn’t on duty and he had missed this intense drama and hadn’t been in a dangerous position.
I know well enough that our first responders do what they do, and run into what others are running out of, because that’s how they are wired and trained. They are there to do a specific job and lives are on the line. If they hesitated for even a moment, to run into that scene or to think about the possible consequences if things don’t go well, most people, particularly the victims of violent crime, of fire, of natural disasters would not be here to tell their survivor tales. It is, even though they eschew the “h” word, a hero’s journey both in the larger frame of choosing to train specifically for one of these fields and again when each new shift starts. Those moments, as many times as they happen in a lifetime, in a work week, are the call to action that they answer continually until they are no longer on the rotation.
Jim was on duty. Not only was Jim on duty, he was in the thick of it and he made a difference to one officer, one family, a wife, a child and their extended families. He made a difference. So humble in the interviews, he may brush off the title of hero, but I don’t think anyone will forget the difference that he made, that his partner that night made, that everyone who contributed to the rescue of Richard Donohue made that night. Richard Donohue is recovering. ( Here’s the Patch article on his progress)
Here’s a link to one of the articles at Patch.com, on the efforts of Jim and his teammates.
They did a couple of interviews on TV, here’s one:
We are so proud of him, but that is nothing new.
Alex’s class had just finished a unit on everyday heroes, with a focus on first responders. I gave his teacher a heads up and he relayed the story to the kids, along with some family photos. Alex knows that there are heroes everywhere and that sometimes they don’t have a badge or uniform, but this time, they certainly did and one of those brave folks was his Uncle Jimmy. He thinks that is pretty great. I agree.
The one thing I was not expecting, was that Boston, particularly the location and the images of first responders and just people trying to assist the injured, really brought back what I went through my first year there (just up Exeter Street, in my first apartment), and how I was rescued, resuscitated, brought back to the surface, saved. It’s now so close to the surface that I hope I can process it instead of sending it back down where it waits like hot wet nostril steam from the nasty beastie that is PTSD, the crunchy coating to that journey through hell that still remains and needs to be finally turned to harmless, nourishing compost once and for all.
Boston was my focal point while learning to walk again, during that time. The plate glass window at the end of the hall at Beth Israel offered a little distance and it definitely egged me along as it was always farther off than if I had only the myopic view and felt surrounded by it. Traversing that distance, on my own two feet, without the walker or my IV pole or a brace or a wheelchair or even a cane kept me moving ever forward, back to my city and back to my life and back to endless possibilities for my future. I cannot imagine what it is like to be injured as a result of the evil intentions of others, to the degree that those who survived the bombing were injured. I know all too well how it feels to have to learn the basics all over again, to stand up and fall and set yourself back, to depend on others and to feel somewhat helpless and unsure of yourself. My heart goes out to all of the people facing that reality. Keep your city in your sight.