When Terror Hits Home

Straight Up: The city is hurt, but as this Bostonian says, there's no place more suited to the task of healing.

FBI agents comb the streets of Cambridge, Mass., where the writer lives. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
FBI agents comb the streets of Cambridge, Mass., where the writer lives. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

As I watched the news coverage, I saw film of the bombers’ house on Norfolk Street and realized I had parked on that street the previous weekend before going to dinner around the corner at a new popular restaurant. How can it be that this street, proximate to one of the liveliest entertaining and nightlife sections of Cambridge, could have been the locus of such malice and murderous rage?

But all along I knew two things with certainty, and I knew this because I know Boston. First, there would be utter steel resolve, no stop whatsoever, and wall-to-wall support from the citizens of Boston and surrounding cities and towns, for law enforcement in the pursuit of those who had attacked the Marathon — one of the crown jewels of the metro area and its indomitable spirit. Anybody who knows Boston knew this. You just knew it. Second, no small act of cowardice can bring down a city defined by the sort of history, striving, challenge, resilience, passion, loyalty and depth of character that is Boston.

The light and vitality of a city that brought you the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Ride, the Old North Church, Crispus Attucks, the Black Freedom Trail, Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment, John F. Kennedy’s B.A., Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ph.D., and Mitt Romney’s, John Roberts’ and Barack Obama’s J.D.s, Massachusetts General Hospital, the MIT media lab and a list of literary giants that few places in the world can rival cannot be diminished by a gutless act of terror. If these two alleged terrorists had not been purposeless idiots, they would have known as much and not embarked on such a futile and evil mission.

Boston is an identity, Boston has a core and traditions, Boston has a real personality and culture and a beating heart. It is a City in Full. Go to a Red Sox, or Celtics, or Bruins or Patriots game out in Foxborough, and you’ll know it. Hang out on the Esplanade on the Fourth of July, and you’ll know it. Witness a graduation in Harvard Yard, and you’ll know it. Or even just take a Duck Boat Tour, and you’ll know it. Yes, Boston also has its full measure of failings and shortcomings, which need no recitation here. In moments like these, it’s the strengths that shine through. The old adage holds that there are three things to do in Boston: sports, politics and revenge. You had better believe it. And then some.

Boston took a hit. Boston is hurting. I feel this, too, as does anyone who loves this town. The greatness of Boston — its history, its institutions, its culture, its people — endures and will shine more brightly than ever in the days ahead. That’s how we roll.

Lawrence D. Bobo is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University.