I have roughly fifteen half-finished posts in my draft folder about the Boston Marathon bombing, starting with one the day after it happened and ending with a paragraph or two I wrote a few months ago. I keep trying to figure out how to talk about it, trying to clarify what it is I feel and what I want to say to myself and to the world. I don't know how. I still don't know.

And I will tell you now that this is not that piece. But, like those aborted posts, it is still an open-ended expression of failure. 

Today I had the following conversation with one of my friends:

me:  goddammit

one of my [summer program] kids is going to jail

Friend:  ugh

i'm sorry

me:  it's okay

he's the friend of the Boston bomber

I don't know if I'm sadder he's going to jail or that he apparently got high like eight times that day

Friend: ohhhhhhh

lead, buried

me:  I mean I guess?

but for me the story happens in that order


So. This is how it is. I remember Robel - he wasn't my student, but we all knew everyone. He was small then. This is not a thing I could have imagined, then.

For context: this program where I taught, during the summer of 2006 - I'm not going to name it here, because I don't want anyone to use this against them - was, and is, designed to keep kids on the path to college by making learning an enjoyable part of life. We lived and breathed it. My roommate then and I used to sit in our sweltering apartment, listening to Sufjan Stevens' The Avalanche, and talk about head versus heart - whether or not our performance should be judged on how much blood and tears we put into our work. And the kids lived and breathed it, too; we used to see them on the weekends, to call them at home. I still talk to a few of them sometimes. Which is probably why this hurts me, whether or not I deserve to feel it.

I'm afraid to even talk about this situation, because I want so badly to establish that I know that:

  • it's not about me
  • one program or person cannot be expected to alter another person's fate
  • this bombing was a horrible, horrible tragedy and no one should have aided or abetted it in any way

I know. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. It's not even my business to be sad, not when so many people related to this event experienced real tragedy. But I'm writing this now, this howl of frustration, because I want it acknowledged that we tried to build this beloved community, and I want us to try harder. I don't know how. I don't know what went wrong, and I don't know where he - or we - went wrong. But something could be better. And I think saying this out loud, how far we are from that community of our dreams, is probably the first step. Even if it takes the form of an incomprehensible half-apologia like this one.