Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Bombings at the Boston Marathon - My Experience

On Monday, April 15th, two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line. 
     It's been one whirlwind of a week. While this semester has been crazy enough for me, Monday marked a new level of crazy. I've been living in Boston for two school years now and I have always felt safe. I knew coming here from a small town would be much different and that I would have to be more cautious. But it felt like home right away and I quickly learned how to be safe, ignore sketchy people, and what places to avoid. 

     No one could have been prepared for what happened on April 15th. Boston has never faced such terror and no one could imagine this kind of attack happening in our city. This is my past week from what happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon to trying to move on to the weeks ahead of me that I am incredibly grateful I have.
     I recently started my job at Club Monaco and went in for my fourth or fifth shift on Monday afternoon. Emerson gets the day off from classes because it's a state holiday. As I took the T to work, the train passed by the closed stop at Copley. Little did I know that stop would be closed for much longer than a day. 

     I knew what the scene at Copley Square would look like because I'd gone to cover the marathon last year for one of my journalism classes. They blocked off several streets and sidewalks so it takes you at least 15 minutes just to get to the other side of the street. As you walk around, it feels as though half of Boston is all packed into a five block radius. While this congestion is annoying, there is still an overwhelming feeling of happiness and pride among the crowds. People cheer for their loved ones, runners push their limits to reach an amazing goal, and visitors have come from around the world to be a part of the biggest sporting event in New England. This day is also Patriot's Day, a time to celebrate the people who have made sacrifices for our country.

     I got to the Prudential Center around 12:15 pm, got dressed in my "Club clothes," for work, and was assigned "Zone One" for the day. This meant I'd be in the front of the store greeting people. It wasn't busy for the first couple hours because most of the city, I expected, was at the marathon. A couple runners had already finished the race and came into the store. 

     It was almost 3 o'clock when I heard a faint rumbling noise. It sounded like someone was moving furniture on the floor above us. I  heard it again a few moments later. I thought it must've been the store's speakers glitching. Then about three to five minutes later, a wave of shoppers came running in my direction. Everyone in the mall was frantic and looking for the nearest exits. My first thought was that there had been a shooting. I ran to the back of the store by the registers to tell my managers. They saw everyone running and didn't know what was going on either. They shut the doors and ran out to ask a security guard. Someone said something had collapsed and that we had to evacuate. We fled for the back room, grabbed our things, and ran outside. 

     As I was leaving with my co-workers, I called my boyfriend, Andy. I told him that I was okay, were evacuating the mall, but I didn't know what was going on. He asked me if he should came get me, and I hesitantly said yes. I didn't want to put him in danger but all I wanted was to be with him. Our store stayed together across the street from the Prudential and we waited as more and more people gathered. Andy called me to tell me he was on his way and that he'd found out there were two explosions at the marathon. I thought it could've been an accident, like an electrical fire from all the wiring at the race. 

     Then, it seemed like every emergency vehicle in the area was going to Copley. Motorcycles, ambulances, and SWAT trucks raced by us, almost running over people crossing the street. I started to see people coming from the race in tears and realized this was bigger than an accident. Something smelled like batteries. Every dog I saw looked nervous, their tales low to the ground and their eyes alert. My managers told all of us that we could go home if we had a way to get there. One of my co-workers also goes to Emerson so she and I decided to walk back together. I kept calling Andy to let him know where I was going, but at that point, service was really bad and I couldn't get through. Newbury St. and Commonwealth Ave. were closed so we had to go a couple streets down. All of my family and friends were texting me to make sure I was okay and I was only able to get texts out to some of them. As we traveled further from Copley, some people were frantic and others seemed clueless. 

The bombings took place between Copley Square and the Prudential Center. 
     I finally, reached Andy and we agreed to meet on the bridge in the Public Garden. My co-worker made sure I got to the garden before she kept walking back to campus. The bridge was filled with people, most of them didn't seem to know what happened and were just going about their days. I didn't see Andy so I waited. I looked at my phone and opened a text my older sister had sent me asking me if I was okay. Part of her message said, "Please answer me so I don't have a panic attack." I read that and instantly teared up. I didn't care if bystanders saw me break down, I was beyond caring about composing myself. Then I heard Andy call my name. I couldn't run quick enough and I wanted to just push everyone out of the way. I finally reached his arms and didn't want to let go. He was cold, tired, and had blisters on his feet. I was so happy to be with him and I felt safe for once.

     We slowly walked back to campus. The college was on lock-down so they were asking for IDs before we entered the building. When we got to my suit, my suit mates were watching the news. It was surreal to watch the explosions at the finish line. I couldn't believe it had happened a block away from me and only a few blocks from my school. But I felt even worse for the people who were actually there. I couldn't imagine the horror those people felt and the devastation of those who were hurt. Even worse, the most horrible feeling of losing a loved one. 

     We couldn't leave the dorm for the rest of the day, so Andy and I went up to our friends' suite. Their window looks out to the Common and we saw several National Guard troops create their base there. We all hungout and watched the news until late at night. It was nice to be together while we waited.

On Tuesday, I wore my Puma sneakers in honor of the marathon runners and Boston's spirit to "keep running."
My outfit while my boyfriend and I walked around downtown.
     Classes were canceled again so we could have time before getting back to work. I had planned to use this day to get started on some final assignments but I didn't have an ounce of motivation. Andy wanted to take pictures around where everything happened so we went for a walk. Troops were still in the Common and reporters were everywhere. Dozens of news stations were set up on the corner of Boylston and Arlington - a block away from Copley Square. We walked as far as we could down Boylston until gates stopped us. Troops stood behind the gates while people placed flowers, signs, and flags in front. You could just barely see down the street where the explosions happened and the entire street was a mess of debris. We walked around Newbury and while everything was a little calmer and quieter, most stores and restaurants remained open. It was nice to see businesses running the day after an attack. It was their way of saying that nothing can bring our city down. 

Flowers, signs, flags, and marathon medals were placed at the gate blocking off Boylston St. 
     Andy asked me if I wanted to take out a pen and paper and start interviewing people, since that's sort of what I do. But that was the last thing I wanted to do. I saw so many people who were grieving and still in shock, and I just couldn't bring myself to ask them to relive their experience so soon after it happened. Not many people are comfortable with reporters shoving a microphone or pad of paper in their face after they've gone through something traumatic. I finally understood why. I would much rather talk to someone as a citizen to another citizen in a time like this. I walked into a boutique, and that's just what I did. The manager asked how I was and we started talking about where we were when the attack happened. It was just a natural conversation and it felt better than interrogating someone to get a news worthy story.

Reporters have been at every street corner. Here, there were hoards of reporters at the corner of Arlington and Boylston. 
We looked for Anderson Cooper, but couldn't find him. 
     Through all of this, I've realized the kind of journalist I want to be. This is much deeper than wanting to be a fashion journalist or lifestyle writer. One of my professors talked to my class about insensitive media coverage on the bombings and told us that we don't have to be that kind of journalist to be successful. He said we could still be good, considerate people in this competitive industry. I know now that I don't want to sacrifice any of my ethics or values just to get a good story. I still love journalism. I know that it's still the career I want to pursue. But I know breaking news, broadcast, and insensitive media isn't me. I don't want to add to victims' despair by bombarding them with questions. People who have experienced a horrible event don't need more questions. If they are glad to talk that's their decision. I would much rather give people time to process everything and then do a more in depth feature piece a few weeks later. 

     That night, there was a candlelight vigil in the Common to mourn and pay tribute to the victims of the bombing. People placed flowers, signs, and Samuel Adams bottles among the candles lying at the base of the gazebo.

A candlelight vigil was held in the Common on Tuesday night. 
Students paid tribute with candles, flowers, signs, and Samuel Adams bottles. 
     It was our first day of classes and things started to feel a little closer to normal. The news reported that a suspect of the bombing was taken to federal court and then there was a bomb threat that evacuated the courthouse. However, these reports were misleading. No suspect was in custody and no bomb was found. 

Cops and military blocked off several streets from Newbury to Mass. Ave. 
     I went for a run on Beacon Hill after my 10am class. It was my first run of the year because the weather was finally nice enough. Beacon Hill is one of my favorite places in Boston and it's a serene area to go running. I enjoyed the beautiful houses and blooming trees. People were walking their dogs and shopping down Charles St. I felt relaxed and happy when I got back.

     During the day was pretty uneventful because I was in class from 12-8pm. All of my professors had discussions of the week's events and it was nice to hear what other students had to say, especially from journalistic perspectives.

While military troops were all around the Boston Common, citizens went about their days.
      Andy and I spent our night watching Mad Men to escape from things for a little while. But the second we turned to the news, things got more intense. We learned that an MIT officer was shot, a 711 in Cambridge was robbed, and the suspects of these crimes were in a dangerous chase with the police. We watched for a few hours as a local reporter was only feet away from gunfire and explosives. I eventually went to bed but Andy kept watching until 5am.

     The next morning, the first thing we did was turn the news back on. They had determined that the two men in the last night's chase were the suspects of the bombing and that the first one had been killed. The cops continued to search for the second suspect. Law enforcement confirmed the suspects names and that they were brothers from Russia who had been living in the US for quite a few years. 

     Since they hadn't found the second suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the mayor called Boston and the surrounding towns to shelter in place. Work was canceled and our campus was told to stay inside with the doors locked. Everything in Boston was quiet. No businesses were open and no cars were on the street. Everyone in the city stayed inside, watching the news and praying they would find him. 

My boyfriend, Andy.
     Finally, after almost 24 hours of news coverage, police found Tsarnaev in a backyard boat in Watertown. People gathered in the Common to celebrate his capture and thank the Boston Police Department. Andy and I went out to take pictures where hundreds of college students were chanting "BPD" and sang "Sweet Caroline." While it was exciting to watch, I didn't really feel like joining them in cheering. I was glad Tsarnaev was in custody and very proud of our law enforcement, but it still didn't change what happened on Monday. 

     Nothing will give Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, and Lu Lingzi their lives back. Nothing will be the same for the victims who lost arms and legs. So while catching one of the suspects is a triumph and provides an ounce of closure, I'm not ready to celebrate. I am, however, extremely proud of our city's police forces and all the work they've done this week. I am also proud of the FBI and National Guard troops who have helped protect our city. 
     There were cops all around the Common keeping an eye on the crowd. When we were done taking pictures, Andy and I walked over to four cops huddled by their cruiser to shake their hands. It felt good to thank each one personally. Most of the time, we take for granted the things cops do to protect us and I'm sure it means a lot to them when citizens thank them for their service.

     Things seemed to settle down in the city on Saturday. We had a suspect in custody, not as many cops were around, and everyone seemed ready to go on with their weekend. It was time for me to go back to work. That afternoon would be my first time going back to work since the marathon. Andy was scheduled to work next door at Copley Place a bit later, but went with me so he could find someone to cover his shift. 

Everyone will keep running in Boston.
     The Copley stop was still closed down and was one of the only reminders of the bombing that I'd seen all day. As the T reached the Prudential stop, I started feeling sick. I had a headache and I felt no motivation to work. He walked with me towards the back entrance of the store and I felt overwhelmingly nervous. He kissed me goodbye. I told him, "Text me when you know if you're..." and then I couldn't hold it in any longer. Tears streamed down my face and I moved away from the hall where people could see me. I told him I didn't know what was wrong but I really didn't want to work. I was positive nothing bad was going to happen this time, but just knowing that it could happen made me nervous. 

     Andy encouraged me to talk to my manager and stay home. My manager was understanding and told me to take the day off. Then, Andy and I walked through the mall and into Copley Place to go to his store. It made me feel a little better to see how busy both malls were. Clearly, there were plenty of people confident enough in their safety to be out shopping. I was still tired though, and my headache wouldn't go away. Andy found someone to cover his shift and we went back to campus. I slept until dinner and felt a bit more refreshed when I woke up. 

     I've missed my family more than anything this week and I am really looking forward to finishing school and going home to them. I need a while away from work and assignments to relax and enjoy time with them.


Events like these make you incredibly grateful for the people you love. 
     What happened on Monday has been hard to deal with, but I can't imagine how hard it has been for people have been more directly affected. I pray every day for those who have been injured or have lost a loved one. I am also so thankful for the people in my life who make me happy. My family, friends, and boyfriend make every day worth living. The community within Boston has come together in so many ways to demonstrate its strength. My favorite story in this whole event is how many marathon runners continued to run to nearby hospitals to donate blood after they finished the race. When you think about all the good things people are doing in the world, it helps to overcome the sadness of the bad things happening around us.

Photo credit: Andrew Cahill

Friday, April 5, 2013

April Inspiration Board

     With only a month left of school, but what feels like two months worth of work, I need a little inspiration in my life. I have a lot of possible opportunities opening up, but that also means facing the uncertainty that follows them. Along with finishing my final class assignments, I'm trying to find an internship in Boston, looking for a summer sublet, and searching for an apartment for the next school year. I am just starting my new job as a stylist at Club Monaco and I'm both excited and nervous.

     This haze of decisions, planning, and hopefulness calls for a lighter mood in inspiration. I want blue skies, lots of white, and clean lines. I've been obsessed with Rihanna's Harper's Bazaar shoot last August...I'm really just obsessed with Rihanna in any photos she takes, but these are among my favorites and the styling goes with the simplicity I'm going for. Her white, thigh-high slit dress is stunning. I found a similar cut-out version in black from Nasty Gal that I would love to add to my wardrobe.

     I'm also loving Rebecca Minkoff's daring spring collection. It's sporty and 60s inspired, but executed in a minimalist style. The prints are vibrant but used sparingly, and she inlayed angular pieces of contrasting fabrics onto several pieces. The other part of her collection that I like so much is how the lookbook pictures were shot. The clothes were modeled in an oasis-like desert with a big pool in front of a mountainous backdrop.

     Another look from the spring shows I really liked was a pant and blouse set from 10 Crosby Derek Lam. Striped patterns were paired together -- the blouse, a white shirt with both straight and angular navy stripes, with blue printed trousers in criss-cross black stripes. Both pieces are very bold, but they work well in balancing each other out.

     I included a detail shot of a dress from the Lanvin spring runway in my inspiration board because I liked the angles created at the neckline and waist with contrasting fabric. I also liked the origami-like folds at the hip and shoulder.

     For the little details, I'm loving lots of delicate, thin rings stacked on a couple fingers. For fingertips, a pale  pink shade of polish looks even more graceful with slivers of silver at the tips.