At 6:00 this morning, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I let it go to voicemail.
“The following is an emergency message from Alert Boston, the City of Boston’s Community notification system: T service is suspended until further notice. Watertown and surrounding communities, including Allston and Brighton should stay home shelter in place and understand we have an armed and dangerous person still at large and police actively pursuing him. Please be patient in use common sense about congregating in large crowds until the suspect is apprehended. We will continue to update the public with more information as it becomes available.”
A few thoughts went through my head this morning when I listened to this message:
1) Who is calling and why are they calling at 6:00 in the morning?
2) I’m never leaving the house again.
3) I’m really glad I live in a city that has such an advanced notification system that they can tell me and everyone around me so efficiently when it is not safe to leave the house.
For the last week or so, William Billings’s poem “Lamentation Over Boston,” which the Zamir Chorale of Boston recorded in 2006, has been playing on loop through my head. (The recording is here if you want to listen.) His prayer, today, is also mine.
By the Rivers of Watertown we sat down and wept,
we wept when we remember’d thee, O Boston.
Lord God of Heaven, preserve them, defend them,
deliver and restore them unto us again.
Forbid it, Lord God,
forbid that those who have sucked Bostonian Breasts
should thirst for American Blood.
A voice was heard in Roxbury which eccho’d thro’ the Continent,
weeping for Boston because of their Danger.
Is Boston my dear Town, is it my native Place?
for since their Calamity I do earnestly remember it still!
If I forget thee, yea, if I do not remember thee,
Then let my numbers cease to flow, Then be my Muse unkind,
Then let my Tongue forget to move and ever be confin’d;
Let horrid Jargon split the Air and rive my nerves asunder.
Let hateful discord greet my ear as terrible as Thunder.
Let harmony be banish’d hence and Consonance depart;
Let dissonance erect her throne and reign within my Heart.
When Zamir sang this piece in 2006, I had been in Boston just a year. Now, having made this area my home for almost eight years, I really feel what Billings must have been feeling as he sat (I imagine) looking at the Charles River and composing this piece during the American Revolution. I love this city. I want it to be safe.
Another lesson I’m remembering, and trying to keep on my heart:
A mentor at Hebrew College once told me that when having issues with someone, you can pray for their healing. Even though they do not need physical healing, this acknowledges that what’s going on with them, even if they are directing their anger or hatred toward you, is their own. It allows us to remain in a place of knowing that the anger is not directed toward us explicitly, but rather we are a vessel for their frustration.
Even in a place of anger, anxiety, and fear, we must remember that these perpetrators are human. We must acknowledge that they weren’t born this way. Perhaps the message is naïve, but it’s the only way I know how to keep from dropping into a spiral of pessimism and despair.
As I sit in my apartment, missing the noise of regular vehicle traffic and the streetcar, I hear more-than-periodic sounds of police sirens. I pray today for the safety of the people of Boston. I pray for the men and women of the police departments and other emergency, intelligence, and rescue departments who are actively on the job today during this incredibly unsafe time. I pray for the families of these officers, that they should themselves feel safe and that they should see their heroes when the worst of this is over. I pray for anyone who has been injured in any part of this conflict. I pray for the comfort of anyone who has lost a family member or a friend. I pray for the hospital workers and the doctors, the government officials, and everyone who is working for the security of this city. And, despite their unspeakable crimes against this city, I pray for the perpetrators of the crimes that have turned Boston upside down this week. I pray that their souls find equilibrium and rest, so that they — and we — can be free again.