Mass mayhem

By Thursday the more than full work week had started to interfere with my brain. After another long and intense meeting in the morning I had started to be forgetful, misplacing things. My body told me to go to sleep, and if that wasn’t possible, to go home. I did the latter, hoping for a quiet day on Friday, with only a few work-related things to attend to and the rest for rest.

But Friday turned out a little different. While I was in a deep and exhausted state of sleep, things started to unfold in Boston that were eerily reminiscent of Kabul. A 6 AM email from our office manager said ‘office closed, check the news.’ What I saw was beyond anything I’d ever expected to see in Boston – gunfire exchanges, captured on someone’s cellphone. Throughout the sequence I was struck by the barking dogs; animals know when something is amiss. There was mayhem in the animal kingdom and human kingdom alike.

Some of the action was very close to our office and many colleagues were in lockdown. They tweeted and facebooked to let people know they were OK. For people watching from a distance, these social media are a great thing and permitted full audience participation in the unfolding drama. News is no longer news but a series of personal experiences and opinions, especially when factual information is scarce.

We went through the day listening to the radio and watching TV until we couldn’t stomach anymore the guessing games, the rumors and the interviews with classmates who told us the two suspects were smart, wonderful and friendly (‘even aggressively friendly,’ said one – was that a clue?), while we were shown their pictures. Once the older one was dead the 19 year old suddenly looked very vulnerable and wide-eyed in a way I associate with innocence. Of course we knew he wasn’t but I couldn’t help thinking that something had gone terribly wrong in his brain.

I am wondering how he can recover in a hospital where he is kept from people, if even there would be any, who’d want to wish him well, with all the anger of the world directed at him. I am wondering about a thousand other things that will forever be different in the lives of those directly and indirectly affected. We are now in a new normal someone said on the radio. They also said that after 9/11 and they will say it every time something cataclysmic happens here.

And yet such events happen every day somewhere in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Somalia, in the Congo – no longer considered cataclysmic because they are part of the old normal over there. Nothing changes. But here things will change. I expect even more paranoia and efforts that feed into the illusion that, in today’s world, we can be safe. We cannot, no one ever has. It is the price we pay for living.

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