Panelists Consider Strength Of Boston Post-Marathon
Participants Reflect On Bombings, City’s Response In Aftermath
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 02:10
With different perspectives and different backgrounds, a panel of speakers shared their thoughts on the Boston Strong Movement on Tuesday night as part of an event put on by the Presidential Scholars’ Class of 2016. The event, “Boston Strong and Becoming Stronger,” was meant to give panelists, as well as students, the opportunity to reflect on April’s Marathon bombings and ask questions about the response of the city.
Nate Schwann, A&S ’16, is one of the 16 students working on the Sophomore Social Justice Project.
“Some people have very strong opinions about Boston Strong, and questioning what it means,” Schwann said. “We want this [event] to be focused on the conversation, not the project … We’d be really happy if this developed into something broader at the Boston College level, compared to just 16 students putting on an event. We think it could be really enriching, especially to a University like BC, to reflect on this.”
The panel of speakers featured injured marathon runner Dave Fortier, Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki, Boston Herald reporter Dave Wedge, executive director of Haley House Kathe McKenna, and BC philosophy professor Aspen Brinton, all of whom shared different reactions to the Marathon bombing and the events that followed.
“The strength of a city can be judged and measured in many ways,” Brinton said. “The slogan in itself is a measure of solidarity that had to already be here before the bombing to have happened so quickly.”
Tlumacki recalled being at the event as a photographer and his initial feelings about his duty as a reporter.
“I knew I was there, it was my responsibility as a journalist to cover that story,” Tlumacki said. “I saw things that I hope nobody in this room ever sees. The images I took haunted me in my sleep. I felt a necessity to talk about it.”
Tlumacki also described forming relationships with the victims on whom he reported, noting that some get a sense of closure from seeing his photographs. “When people want to tell their story, it’s our obligation to tell that story,” Tlumacki said. “I needed to give back what I took away in those photos.”
Wedge agreed that opening up about the events does give closure to the victims. “It helps them to talk about it,” Wedge said. “They want to be together. You can’t go back to the way your life used to be. You can’t move on until you accept where you are.” Wedge said that when he was a BC student, the Marathon always was the beginning of spring and a time to celebrate. “The Marathon always was and always will be a great thing,” he said. “It is to me.”
As a runner injured in the event, Fortier described the inspirational charity runners whose stories he could read as he ran. He said that he believes Boston is strong, and that the strength comes from everyone’s support. “I’ve been contacted by people I don’t know sending well wishes,” Fortier said. “It’s a sense of community.”
McKenna offered a different perspective and words of caution about the Boston Strong movement. “There was initially a sense of coming together to help people who were suffering, but then there was a push to imply ‘We’re strong, we’re tough, and we’re going to take care of the bad guys,’” McKenna said. “I’m not at all convinced that going after bad guys is the way to remedy terrorism or other violent acts that have happened.”
McKenna also described her work with former prisoners trying to assimilate, and noted that they felt as though people responded to Marathon victims and did not acknowledge their struggles to be accepted into the community.
The discussion ended with a video interview of BC alum Brittany Loring, who was injured in the explosion. Loring stated her beliefs that the community should reach out to all marginalized peoples and not to forget the lessons that were learned. “The Boston Strong movement is only as good as the actions behind it,” she said.
The sophomores who organized the event plan to continue with this project in the future. “This event is getting the ball rolling on our larger goal, which is to get a publication on the year anniversary of the Marathon which highlights some of the unique perspectives in Boston that we feel make Boston Strong, and … release it to the BC population at large,” Schwann said.