I woke up early on April 15, 2013. I turned on the T.V. to check on the progress of the Boston Marathon. I watched with a friend as the wheelchair race winners crossed the line. Just before noon we started walking towards the race to cheer them along. We settled in on corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Commonwealth Ave. The sun was shining and we joked about how lazy we felt standing around drinking Dunkin Donuts while the runners were on mile 25.
After standing there for a while, we made our way to the finish line. I texted friends and family telling them I was at the Marathon, partaking in the greatest annual event in Boston. The crowd was too big, and we were stuck about half of a block away from the finish line. Then, just before 2 p.m. we left the Marathon and made our way back to my friend’s apartment in Cambridge.
It was five years ago that I came to Boston to attend Northeastern University. Over the last five years Boston has become my second city and my second home. I have cheered my lungs out at Red Sox games and attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Southie. I’ve been known to throw the Boston-stylized version of the word “wicked” into conversation here and there and I have cheered on the runners on Marathon Monday. Although I will always be a Philly girl, Boston has become a huge part of me.
At 2:50 p.m. on April 15, 2013 something happened that would change my second city forever.
I first saw the news of the explosions on Twitter. I grabbed my phone right away, which had been in my purse since we left the Marathon. I was greeted by 10 texts, two missed calls and a voicemail from my sister practically in tears, thinking I was still at the Marathon. I quickly assured all that I was okay, but the calls and texts never stopped. The rest of the day was spent watching the news and responding to at least 40 texts and calls from my family and friends.
Where the bombs exploded is about a mile from my dorm. When I finally mustered up the courage to come back to campus it was devastating. There were military men with huge guns lined on the streets I walk every single day. I couldn’t walk ten yards without encountering a big group of policemen. This was not the Boston I’ve lived in. This was not the Boston I’ve loved.
On Wednesday afternoon I decided to walk around the perimeter where the police had blocked off. As I walked past my grocery store, I saw the first blocked off area. Walking closer to the area, I saw the Marathon tents were still set up. Any other year, those would have been taken down by Monday afternoon, but not this year.
At each end of the perimeter there were makeshift memorials set up. People left flowers, notes, stuffed animals, Red Sox hats and various other mementos to honor those who were lost or injured. I’ve visited these three times now. Each time the memorial has grown bigger and bigger, showing the love in this city.
Thursday night I received a similar text to those on Monday: “Please tell me you’re not at MIT right now” with a screenshot of the report there was a live shooter campus. The text came from my sister, who knows I spend a lot of time with friends at MIT. Thursday night I was up until 3 a.m. watching the situation in Watertown unfold. I woke up at 6:30 a.m. on Friday to learn school had been closed, so I put the coverage right back on.
Gov. Deval Patrick urged all Boston residents to stay inside, so that is what I did. The day was spent glued to the television just waiting for the second suspect to be caught. It will easily go down as one of the longest days of my life.
Finally, while hiding in a boat, just seven miles from my apartment, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken into custody. And then, we celebrated.
Hundreds from my campus gathered. I dressed in my green Boston t-shirt and my Red Sox hat. We chanted “USA! USA! USA!” Students thanked Boston Police, asked for pictures with them and cheered loudly anytime a police car would drive by.
April 15 through April 19 was only five days. Five days of fright, of love and of strength.
Looking back, I couldn’t be happier with the city that adopted me back when I was an 18-year-old, wide-eyed freshman. Over the past week, this city has shown togetherness and a compassion I have never seen before. The way everyone has pulled together, within my school and the city as a whole, is something I’ve found to be nothing short of amazing.
I could not be prouder of this city and can say, with no doubt in my mind, that I will forever be Boston Strong.
Brenda Maguire is a senior journalism major at Northeastern University. She is currently working as the Web Editor of The Huntington News and as a freelance correspondent for the Tri County Record. She is currently living in Boston, MA and is originally from Bucks County, PA.