People embrace each other during a candle light vigil at the Boston Common, April 16, 2013, a day after two explosions near the Boston Marathon finish line killed three people and injured more than 170 participants and spectators. (Dominick Reuter/WBUR)

We knew it could happen.

The capacity of humans to commit acts of evil? This is no surprise. The randomness of whether one is unscathed or killed? Familiar to all of us. The inability to make the universe as physically safe as a padded cell? We understand.

And yet, we are shocked at the horrific attack on the Boston Marathon.

I just flat out do not want to see the day that our thoughtful, measured, assessment of risk concludes that it is not appropriate to take part in the Boston Marathon.

We knew it could happen, because anything can happen, anywhere, to anyone, and we’d be fools not to notice the evidence in the headlines and in our neighborhoods. The professionals who devote their careers to protecting the public always operate as if the worst will indeed happen, because that is their job. But it is our job to operate otherwise. In other words, it is our job to live.

So even though we knew, we never expected it. And that is good.

What would it mean to expect mayhem? To assume that atrocities are looming, and act accordingly? To say to our happy and eager young children: “No, we will not join in this annual tradition of perseverance and celebration and awe and skill and a large dose of beautiful weirdness, because wherever crowds gather, calamity can lurk.”

I am not suggesting it is wise to ignore danger. I, as it happens, am a born worrier. Cautious to a fault, I am consistently biased towards disaster in my calculations of what could go wrong. This gives me the lifelong label of “Absolutely no fun at parties.” And don’t get me started about my unreasonable fear of flying or allowing anyone I know to fly. Or drive. Or bike. Or walk. In fact, it’s only with herculean effort that as a parent I kept my overprotective tendencies in check, more or less, though the jury’s still out on that one.

But I just flat out do not want to see the day that our thoughtful, measured, assessment of risk concludes that it is not appropriate to take part in the Boston Marathon.

I refuse to concede that it’s an unacceptable hazard to spend time with family and friends and strangers on a beautiful spring afternoon cheering on thousands of people challenging themselves to run 26. 2 miles.

As we weep for the victims and take solace in the heroics of first responders, we look ahead. Next Patriots’ Day, as I have my entire adult life, I plan to stand alongside the route once more, clapping until my palms are numb, shouting myself hoarse, shaking my head at feats of endurance and silly costumes, and reveling in the unpredictable jumble that is life. Life in this city I suddenly call home, with a vengeance.

Odd about that. My new-found allegiance came on strong as the tragedy sank in.

This city is yours, ours, and — as of Monday — mine.

I’ve lived here since graduating college. If you do the math, that adds up to… a few years. Still, despite my unwillingness to budge, this neck of the woods has never been entwined in my identity. Sure, it’s a genuine metropolis, diverse and scholarly and evolving. But the soul of Boston is provincial. It’s a place full of townies and folks who’ve been here for generations. I was an outsider, and that suited me fine. Boston didn’t seem to need me, and I didn’t need to claim it. I’ve long been equal parts smitten-with and snarky-about this old burg — but it isn’t mine.

That changed on 4/15/13, forever.

This city is yours, ours, and — as of Monday — mine. Nobody hurts my home. No coward gets to murder and maim and demolish innocence, not on this turf. My kids were born and bred here, and it matters to them to come from Boston. Hundreds of miles away now at college, they are heartbroken and furious over the attack on the event they treasure, in the city they love. They are proud of their hometown. I stand with my sons; what mother could not?

This, too, we knew could happen. Something could turn us holdouts into Bostonians. If only that something were almost anything but this.

Tags: Boston, Boston Marathon Bombings, Security

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  • Alice Abraham

    Thank you Sharon for unraveling the jumble of feelings that those of us have as transplants that lived in or still call Boston home. I have connections to both DC and NYC and when I saw the 9/11 attacks, yes DC was my native city but it belongs to all of us. Likewise, beautiful Boston will always be my home, too… and I’m proud of its resilient citizens.

  • Ann Silver

    beautiful and poignant.

  • Armando Gespacho

    Here hear Sharon!!!! The randomness of these acts of violence is both the fulcrum of their sharp edge and their Achillies heel. In their suddenness, they evoke unexpected random acts of selflessness, courage and kindness and attract them like socio-luecoytes to terror-bacteria. As a life-long New Yorker, I can never forget the responses to 9/11 and how the World adopted NYC; no longer the sin-city of yore.

    In reading your piece, toward the bottom I saw a pop-up for your fellow “Cognocenti” contributor, E. M. Swift, proclaiming that spectator sports will never be the same after this tragedy. It seems to me you are both right to an extent, but security at events has been a new reality post- 9/11; it is open events like the marathon that are so much more vulnerable. Closed events are already cloaked with tight security and that is a way of life in the new reality. To that extent, I disagree with Mr. Swift as that train has already left the station and closed sporting events are already changed by the security. Among the results is that I can no longer bring deli sandwiches to the ballgame because of the security checks and have to buy the $8.50 hot dog. Any further tightening of security at closed events will just be incremental.

    But you are correct, we cannot let the random evil alienate us from enjoying the open events that make life in our cities and root us to its soil. As the investigation into this evil tragedy unfolds, I suspect that there will also be another new reality which is the ubiquitious personal and private media of cell phone cameras and securtity cameras which will make it hard to perpetrate a deed like this and not be discovered. We will likely need to deal with some incremental increase in security at these open events as well. But just as the spectators become impromptu first responders, so too are they all Junior Homeland Security Rangers. That will help keep the evil at bay.

  • Annandale Nancy

    you have again captured the stirrings within so many of our hearts and minds, Sharon. Thank you. (Here, all these years, I’ve been calling you a Bostonian… now I understand what it really means).

  • Chris Austill

    Hi Sharon,

    I think this is really nicely said. I too feel the strongest bond that I have ever felt to Boston after Monday’s tragedy. It’s a funny amalgam of grief and pride that makes me want to claim Boston as my home as never before. Thanks for putting it into words.

  • Gabriela

    So true and so beautifully said, Sharon. Hugs across the river.

  • Deborah J. Cornwall

    Sharon, this was a touching piece. I too am a transplant, even though I came here almost 45 years ago. I tear up every time I hear Sweet Adeline, or the crowd singing the national anthem at the Bruins game, or think of spectators at a running event having their legs blown off, or think of the warm sunshine on our shoulders on a beautiful Spring day tainted by killers. Sadly, 9/11 was also this kind of day.
    You captured this moment well, and I thank you for that.

  • Todd Macaulay

    Thank you Sharon. As a transplant that has always assumed I would eventually leave Boston, this tragedy has strengthened my resolve to stay. Seeing Boston attacked in this way has uncovered a love that must have been subconcious until now. Perhaps, for me, this is the silver lining of the tragedy. God Bless all those personally impacted.

  • gardenia

    This is a gruesome reminder of radical Islam’s hatred of the democratic western countries. May they all fry crisply, they deserve no better.

  • Flo

    Sorry to be so late with this comment. Though I am a transplant to New England, my anguish has no bounds for those who have suffered and will continue to suffer in so many ways. And yet, as Sharon says “grief and pride makes me want to claim Boston as home.”

  • Ellen Glanz

    So true, Sharon, and so well put. I too have come late to claiming my identity as a Bostonian, though I’ve lived here since grad school – that’s 43 years! Despite raising two children here and taking wonderful advantage of all this city offers, I’ve felt like a native New Yorker transplanted here. And yet this event, like no other, has made me feel indelibly, irretrievably, a Bostonian. So sad that it took this devastating tragedy to shift my sense of myself. Happy to be home.

  • OBKB

    Well, as a lifelong Bostonian, I’d like to say thank you all for your love and support. In my opinion, there is no better city to claim as home, so…welcome home, whether you’ve been here or not. <3

  • Andrea Murray

    I have since heard some reasonably tempered, yet classically academical– and all too typically anthropological– criticism of Boston’s famous breed of “urban parochialism” in response to the Boston Marathon attacks. I have to admit that I, like many of us who came here for brain work, never once thought of myself as a Bostonian until April 15. However, as a Marathon Survivor and a primary resident of Cambridge and Somerville for the last seven years, I cannot deny that my regional and affective “identity switch” transpired the very instant my friends from the Cambridge Running Club and I heard the first explosion while standing at a safe distance on Beacon St. As a West Coast intellectual transplant, a big fan of quirky, all-inclusive public festivities AND the marathon-induced runner’s high, I can relate to Sharon Brody’s essay on multiple levels.

    Now, just as I prepare to board the plane to Spain, once never to return, I am firm in my commitment to return to Boston, one year from now, to complete my fourth Boston Marathon. Perhaps by April of 2014 I will better understand my own relationship to these events, and how I can continue to live a meaning-made life for my refusal to be afraid of the unknown. And, I pray that I will soon find some lasting inner peace (without the support of any intellectual or politically pre-fabricated scaffolding) to honor and support my own feelings and my own experience of that horrible week. I know I am not alone.

  • Jan Dumas

    You can’t claim to love this city and call us petty with narrow interests. I’m a 6th generation proud townie, and I bet your all surprised I know what parochialism means. Don’t pat your selves on the back about how you have “become” Bostonians, if it took two bombs to make this area your home. At least you did not call it Beantown, that would have been a total fail.