April 18, 2013
We Stand Strong Generation
I am a 23 year old young professional. I was in 7th grade when two planes struck the Twin Towers in September of 2001 and have been a Boston resident since 2007. Despite this fact, I am not naïve enough to say I’m a Bostonian, or to believe I ever will be.
I am not a product of the 1960’s – an era synonymous with peace, love, and tolerance. I did not protest the Vietnam War beside young, like-minded activists, and I will not recall to my children where I was when one of our most beloved President’s – John F. Kennedy - was assassinated. I often wish that these memories marked my youth; because, however marred by their own misfortune, most fondly recall these as much simpler times.
Four days after what is now called the “Marathon Bombing”, I continue to process feelings of grief, anger, confusion and anxiety. In the early mornings, as the city lays silent under the cover of darkness, I feel vulnerable and the loss suffered by so many following Monday’s tragedy hangs heavy on my heart. As I go about my day, I suppress these unwelcome emotions as they arise in erratic succession. Boston Strong. I may not be a Bostonian, but this week “we are all Boston” and I stand proudly with my city.
For me, processing “the Marathon Bombings” involves a lot of talking. Spontaneous and unfiltered discussion with coworkers, friends, family, even the woman sitting next to me on the T. I realize this is not an original response and it is largely necessary as we come to terms with reality, cope with our grief and begin to envision how our world – how our everyday lives – has changed.
But through these conversations, I am surprised by a new awareness of myself and of my generation. I recount my experience on Monday as a series of real-time tweets, incessant text messages and startlingly graphic photographs taken from every angle of the bomb site. Immediately following the news, I called my parents to assuage their fears for my safety – but newscasters had not yet arrived at the scene, and so, they were completely unaware.
Since Marathon Monday, I have vented my frustration at the media’s relentless use of unapproved and unconfirmed Facebook photos, tweets and bystander reports as the basis of their newscast. The result has been repeated, erroneous reports and an embarrassingly public display of widespread chaos; none more telling than 1,000 reporters besieging the Moakley courthouse in hopes of being among the first to capture the suspect who would never emerge.
As much of the nation turns on their television to learn “what happens next”, I shut it off. I’ve fallen silent on Twitter and Facebook for fear of glimpsing ‘trending’ photos of victims’ wounds and hate statuses proclaiming America’s supremacy. I realize the resulting chaos from this tragedy is homegrown. Our generation demands graphic imagery, real-time reports and live-stream videos recounting and replaying every detail, theory and ‘clue’. And we pride ourselves on personally submitting photos and relayingnupdates because we believe we are key players in this evolving saga. But our demands for immediacy and inclusion have very real consequences, and can ultimately detract from the honor and integrity of those most impacted by this tragedy.
In explaining my frustration to my father, I tried to appeal to empathy: “Imagine I had died in this bombing, and they went on my Facebook and broadcasted my face all over the globe!” Although I believed this justified my outrage, his reaction was less poignant. And I realized, perhaps he couldn’t understand - He just watches the news, he doesn’t participate.
Growing up in the post-9/11 era, I know I am not the only 20-something who has considered what picture might be used if I’m ever a victim of a tragedy like this - or of a university shooting, a movie theatre massacre or even a stray glass fragment at my favorite bar. “Times were simpler then,” my parents remind me in their sweet, however futile efforts to empathize.
What is it like to grow up knowing that my city, my university, my hometown or my happy hour might be next? Are our demands for immediacy and inclusion through social media really surprising, as a generation plagued by constant, underlying fear and responsibility for our own vigilance?
I am a 23 year old young professional. I believe in the value of social media to connect, enlighten and empower, and also in the power of print and broadcast media to challenge, inform, and engage. I acknowledge the world is a dangerous place, but I refuse to succumb to fear. I believe in the prevailing good of people and that as long as we believe they will never win. I am a product of the “We Stand Strong” generation. And I am both grief-stricken and proud knowing that today, we are all Boston Strong.