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When Terrorism Comes To YOUR Backyard
When the two bombs blew my city apart at 2:50 pm on April 15, 2013, I was leading my group on the Cultural Caribbean Cruise that had been planned for more than a year. We had just docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico and I was able to turn my phone back on and check my email massages. As I finished that task and prepared to get off the ship to enjoy parts of the island, my phone rang. It was my childhood friend, Denise Gray Felder, calling in a panic. “Carole! Where are you? Are you and Michelle safe? How close are you to the explosion that just happened at the finish line of the Boston Marathon?”
I thanked my friend for calling and reassured her that we were thousands of miles away from the scene of the amazing event. I collected my thoughts, wiped the shock off my face, and desperately searched the internet for more information on this breaking story. I had just sent off unrelated emails to friends and colleagues and learned that one friend had just handed the award to the winning female marathon runner more than half an hour before the first bomb exploded.
And as the day continued I would learn the extend of the damage and the connections I personally had to the dead and injured. The good people of Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and St. Kitts were closely watching the Boston bombings and extended their sympathies to me as we traveled from one island to another. As soon as the guests on the ship heard the news they wanted to know if I or those who traveled with me had any loved ones or friends injured or displaced by the blasts. We did. One of my church member’s neighbors was the classmate of the dead eight year old boy. One of my sorority sister’s son was injured and hospitalized because of the bombings. One of our cruise traveler’s son was a television cameraman covering the marathon, and thankfully was not injured. And the connections just kept going deeper and deeper into the fabric of this horrific event.
I took this terrorist act PERSONALLY. These two demonic young monsters tried to destroy MY city. They killed and injured the innocent who just wanted to watch a good race by cheering on their friends and loved ones straight through the finish line. I am heartbroken by the families who are burying their children, students, young adults and police officers. I go numb when I think about the 13+ newly minted amputees who are starting life all over again with artificial limbs. I am saddened by the the two businesses, Marathon Place and The Forum Restaurant, now boarded up, unable to reopen because they are an active crime scene.
And as the chair of the Multicultural Committee of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, I took these bombings PERSONALLY. Our committee and our Bureau have worked for nearly 20 years to eradicate the stigma of racial hostility that still lingers with some people. This incident was a personal affront to all of the efforts of our committee and Bureau. I was concerned that it would further hurt the Boston brand and keep diverse conventions, conferences, meetings and family reunions away from our city.
Fortunately the swift actions of our city leaders dashed that threat.
My heart leaped for joy when I watched onboard ship via satellite TV the dramatic chase, gun battle and ultimate capture of the wounded 19 year old brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. We didn’t have to worry about his 26 year old brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The police filled his body with bullets and baby brother ran him over in a stolen vehicle, only to escape into the streets of Watertown, Massachusetts.
Thank God for our diverse group of elected officials and law enforcement officers in greater Boston. Led by the state’s first African American governor, Deval Patrick and supported by our first Black president, Barack Obama, they all worked as ONE in a decisive manner locking down entire cities to ensure the safety of its people.
In less than five days, it was over. The mastermind of this reign of terror was dead. The other brother captured, thanks to an alert Watertown homeowner who was curious about why his boat was tampered.
On the evening of April 24th following an Advisory meeting of the Boston Chapter National Black MBA Association, I drove down newly reopened Boylston Street to see the damage for myself. Yes, I found the boarded up businesses now labeled part of a crime scene and captured them on my camera. But I took pride in thanking one of the police officers at the scene for his service to our city. He took great satisfaction in my compliment and grinned from ear to ear.
Detroit is my beloved birthplace, but Boston has been my adopted home for more than 30 years. I feel as much a part of the “Boston Strong” movement as everyone else in this region. Boston is a great city and has proved once again that it will survive and thrive despite the forces of evil. Yes, we have political, social, economic and educational issues, just like any other world class city. But we have a resilient power to press forward in defiant dignity.
Multiculturalism and Diversity were on full parade last week. And so was the courage and commitment of ALL the people who live in my region. Police and elected officials teamed up with everyday “folk” to capture the bad guys. That is what I call faith in action.
Boston Strong. Boston Strong. BOSTON STRONG!!
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.