On the day of the 9/11 attacks, I was on a plane from Budapest to Kyiv, Ukraine, where I started an internship for the United Nations Development Programme. My first duty in my new position, which began on Sept. 12, 2001, was to write a letter of condolences from the UN to the American Embassy.
My boss at the UN – who, incidentally, was from Boston himself – reminded us in no uncertain terms that this was not a crime against America. Rather, this was a crime against humanity.
A few months later, I met another American in Kyiv who told me that when the attacks happened, she had more than one person tell her to her face: “You people deserved this!”
As for myself, amidst my own shock and horror at what happened, I have to admit that I felt that it was bound to happen sooner or later.
But now, as a resident in the Boston area twelve years after September 11, 2001, and one day after the Boston Marathon bombings rocked the nation, my initial emotional response is markedly different.
The dominant emotions in the past, during the attacks that happened over the years in places such as London, Madrid, Bali, and so on, were usually of sadness and compassion for all concerned.
Moreover, I struggled to understand the motivation behind these attacks, and quite often, considered the role that we in the Western world may have played in provoking such attacks.
But this time, I am angry.
Who would have the gall to mount such an attack?
And how dare they do it?
After eight months here, I’ve grown to really like the people of Boston and environs. They’re strong, funny, resilient, cynical, and above all, thoughtful and supportive. It’s more blue-collar than where I’m from, and a bit rougher, but there’s little question in my mind that if I, my wife and our boy ever needed help with anything, we’d find it immediately – whether it’s from the family of two boys two doors down, from our talkative and gregarious next-door neighbour who shovelled our walks during the snowstorms, from the jovial car mechanics down the road, or anyone else in the surrounding community.
I so much as told my wife this morning and she wholeheartedly agreed. This is a very strong and proud community and the Boston Marathon is an example of the great community spirit evident here.
Amongst the many expected responses of shock and horror in my Facebook feed, there were two or three comments that went on about how this was of course to be expected, and that Boston is now experiencing the horrors inflicted daily by U.S. drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and so on and so forth. Apologists for the attacks, so to speak.
I get it. Really, I do. When the London bombings happened in 2005, I was working at a newspaper in Vancouver. I turned to my editor-in-chief and said something like: There are a lot of angry people in this world, and this is what happens when there’s this much anger. It’s kind of understandable, I explained.
I knew my comments weren’t going to be popular. Regardless, that was my feeling at the time.
Now, it’s different. When I saw one of Boston’s biggest events of the year being rocked by a tragedy like this, I was numb, and then, I was pissed off. I didn’t give a fuck about the politics.
I was pissed off that so many ordinary people were affected by this, regardless of who they were.
I was angry that my parents were coming to visit in less than a month, and that my wife’s parents were coming in a couple of weeks, and that this tragedy has to be on their minds just before coming here.
I was angry that innocent people were victims in this attack, which happened in an area that my family and I have visited many times – including Copley Square, the Old South Church and the Boston Public Library, all very popular public gathering spots.
I was angry that I even thought about going down with my little son to see the marathon in person, and that something could have happened to us.
I was angry that my wife had to be upset that this scenario was even possible in the first place.
I was angry for the father who lost his eight-year-old son in the attack, and now saw his six-year-old daughter with a missing leg and his beloved wife undergoing brain surgery.
“They are just your average little boys,’’ said a neighbour of the family, according to Boston.com.
I was angry for the woman who learned that her two sons each lost a leg in the explosions. She’s from Wakefield, which is a ten-minute drive from where we live.
“I’d never imagined in my wildest dreams this would ever happen,” she said when waiting in the emergency room Monday night, according to the Boston Globe.
Go on, tell my parents and my wife’s parents not to worry, that it’s a political thing. Go on, tell that father and mother that it was a consequence of the United States’ role in the world. Go ahead, I dare you. It really won’t matter.
Really, I do not care what must have perpetrated these attacks.
What I care about is: Who would do something like this? And how dare they?
We are being warned by the FBI to “stay vigilant”.
Do we need this fear in our lives? No.
This is not about America or the rest of the world. This isn’t about social imbalances. This isn’t about politics.
This is about a crime against the community and against humanity.
In short, no one deserves this. No one.