On Surviving: “A humble tribute to all the victims of fear and darkness”

Bea, Boston

Posted on April 22, 2013 (for original post, please visit Bea’s insightful and honest Spanish/English blog “Bea Usted”)

Annoyed by language complexity and feeling overwhelmed by a consuming feeling that goes beyond words, I dare to break the silence and I decided to write.

Please, my beloved reader, take it as a prerogative of this witness.
Take it please, as a humble tribute full of love and respect to all the victims of fear and darkness.
With my profound gratitude to all of those still looking for light in human nature.
With love to Boston.

Thunderous silence the one that precedes the sound of a bullet. Your sight gets lost in the face of such a spectacle, facing the immediate fact that your “EVERYTHING”-that everything that without any pondering you call life- is subjugated to the will of a trigger.

The powder has an acid thick fragrance, recalcitrant. The struggle that you feel is silent, eternal. The fear defeats the pain. The blood is a sign of life. Every breath you take is a struggle and consciousness makes you realize that you are wounded.

An internal voice controls yourself; there’s no more noise; there’s no more pain. You give up by the fragility of your body. Strength…

I woke up in a hospital. They showed me the bullet. I could not believe it, though I also couldn’t help but to feel that I deserve it. In those days, the odds to be wounded where pretty high in Mexico City, and by being out at 11:00 pm I made them even higher, we were not in a war; we didn’t have terrorist; our history was not made up of violent religious conflicts, but what we did have was the numbing violence. During that time –Friday December 5th, 2003 to be exact- the term of “War against organized crime” had not even been coined. Violence was just part of our reality.

What happened with my life after that event has been living. I have been extremely fortunate. I understand that I didn’t do anything to deserve to be a survivor. The projectile was weak. It couldn’t go through. Also I didn’t do anything to be there in that precise moment, the attack was absolutely random. As time went by, I learned how to justify it, saying that the main motivation that sparks violence, according to what people told me was money and power. It was a cultural thing people used to say.

I never sued. It is important to mention that my “assailant” was a cop who used to work for the peace of the citizens by day, but change his bet by night. I didn’t know where to go. I was afraid.

People said that humans have sensorial memories. Just with a stimulus we are able to instantly travel back to a moment that is already tattooed in your memory system.

Thursday April 18th, 2013. I was writing an essay about the impact of media in the last democratic elections in my country. I was alone in my apartment joined by my cat and my coffee maker. Procrastinating, I was reading about the MIT shooting, I thought that probably they were more terrorists in the city, or that perhaps a student victim of the collective psychosis decided to take action. I kept on reading. Sean Collier, 26, a cop from Somerville -the beautiful place where I live- was killed. He was there in the wrong moment.

Through social media, I realized that there was a chase on the streets. I thought immediately that it was related to the MIT shooting. I also thought that this might be a secondary effect of the terrorist attack on Patriots Day. Once fear and violence are released it is very difficult to control them. That’s what experience has taught me.

I heard a gun shot. I was in doubt, How far it was? Two more. I Tweeted about it. “I heard it too,” a Mexican friend from Harvard replies. “Bombs, sirens, gun-shots and murders. Cambridge or Ciudad Juarez” someone says on Twitter, receiving several RT’s. The joke was totally unnecessary yet sadly accurate.

I leave the comfort of my desk to close the window when I heard a loud noise. Later, I knew that it was a bomb. The wind that touched my face in that precise moment was polluted by that repugnant smell of powder.

Can you recognize it? You, that have lived something similar. Please tell me that I’m not alone. You veteran cop or formed soldier. You, journalist. You, that have been in a war zone. You, criminal that have pulled the trigger of a gun. You, that needs to hide in the middle of a gun-shot. Aggressor or victim. Can you recognize the kind of adrenaline that I’m talking about? You and I, and all the survivors, we know that what I am describing goes beyond any kind of language.

I couldn’t sleep that night. The helicopters, sirens and shoot fired penetrated my dreams. I was in Mexico, the streets where occupied by a terrorist cell. Somehow, I knew that they were looking for my aggressors.

I woke up. I had run out of coffee. I wanted to go out but the city was locked in. The news was saying that the entire city had been shutdown. A man, a 19 year old kid, was the subject. I didn’t care. I was not afraid. I felt trust.

Everyone in the Greater Boston Area was at home. They agreed to stay inside as long as it took, because the police was using the power of the state legitimately.

At 8:00 pm the lock-in was lifted. I went out with my friends to have diner. In the streets you couldn’t yet feel joy, but strength. The small bars and restaurants of Davis Square were crowded. I needed to go out of my place. I needed to breathe! I understood that others shared my necessity.

All the inhabitants of this New England place, Bostonians or not, where responding with a subconscious yell of war. Terror is not going to take our streets! Freedom was ours.

Around 10:00 pm, it was official. The suspect was in custody. I couldn’t avoid making a standing ovation. The rest of the guests in the restaurant did the same thing.

I didn’t do anything to be here, to be able to witness this event. I just coincided, just as the marathon victims of last Monday. There’s no rational explanation that can give us certainty about why we are where we are. There is no explanation of our space-time allocation. It just is. We coincide.

But I want to see beyond evident truths and I’m writing this without any academic purpose. I voluntarily abstain myself from trying to find any kind of ideological or ethnic theories that might justify or explain the terror that the Tsarnaev brothers caused. In my country, I learned that what triggers violence is the desire of power and money. But so far, that doesn’t sound justifiable. I refuse to understand it.

Boston. I used to describe this city as a “cozy” place with echoes of British architecture. Bostonians, archaic-people that close bars at 2:00 am! Awful weather and that indecipherable accent!!!

Bostonians… Warriors! Thank you. Terror can be around, but not in these streets. No matter how much it takes –estimates between 250-333 million dollars worth of business lost that day – a life is priceless. Nothing would stop you to free the citizens from fear.

Sunday. The sixth day after the bombing on the Marathon the sun shines. The spring is here and I am not saying this as a metaphor; for the first time after an eternal winter I can see flowers in the trees.

I don’t know what will happen with my life. I’ve never been a long-term planner. I’m just about to finish grad school and I don t know yet if I will go back to Mexico or where my next stop will be. Reality has taught me its “creative” side and I know that there are a lot of things out of my control.

To the family and friends of the victims that perished during these 6 days, I can only wish strength and send you light.

If this can help in something, let me tell you that even when I don’t know where I’m going to be after Boston, this experience will join me. I understand that there is also a thunderous silence that precedes peace. There are some battles that must be lost to win a war that we can barely understand. There are awful images that for a moment might darken our vision, but can bring clarity. There are shared tragedies that can surpass historical, ideological, or ethnic differences. That after all we’re all survivors.

I bought coffee this morning. I walked peacefully and the kids were playing baseball.
There is no smell of powder. You know? Peace has a subtle sweet scent. I’m going to take that scent with me today, hopping to experience it tomorrow.

Can you see what I see?


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