As a Wellesley College alum, I remember it fondly as a day off not long after Spring Break, a merciful class-free morning of screaming for runners followed by a late afternoon of relaxation and fried dough on Severance Green. We would gather in front of Munger Hall as the first green buds and pink flowers of the late-arriving Massachusetts spring burst onto the trees. My Wellesley friends who came from the Boston area celebrated Marathon Monday with the greatest fervor. They’d grown up watching the Scream Tunnel on television their whole lives. The rest of us were new, enthusiastic initiates to our collective cheering duty.
I have a confession. Whenever something like this happens, I think: Please let it be white people. I silently hope the perpetrators are antisocial reclusive US-born men of the sort who simultaneously oppose abortion rights and child support enforcement, a bunch of AR-15-toting birthers who claim to hate the government while they live off their federal disability checks. But that’s my own brand of prejudice. In truth, any ideology can entrap the mentally unstable into committing heinous acts in its service.
But I fear the exploitation of terrible crimes for political ends, and, in my lifetime, two ill-conceived wars have been waged in the aftermath of atrocities perpetrated by Islamic terrorists. I sat in my suburban Texas living room a short drive from Oklahoma City on the afternoon Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah building, and no troops were subsequently mobilized to shut down that particular brand of extremism. So perhaps that’s part of the origin of my prejudice. When far-right Americas are the perpetrators, they’re treated – correctly – as rogue criminals, and thousands of civilians don't have to die to pay for the acts of the very few.
What I know for sure is this: the Boston Marathon will continue to be one of the most celebrated and well-attended sporting events in the world. And the tragic events that transpired this afternoon will never come close to the decades of joy, trans-national enthusiasm, and triumphs of the human spirit that characterize this extraordinary event.
And nothing will drown out the cheers of the Wellesley Scream Tunnel. We’ll be back next year.