By Joseph A. Curtatone
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
Last week, I wrote with a heavy heart as I recalled learning of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, monitoring the unfolding events, and especially explaining to my children that something terrible had happened. After that, we held a community vigil and healing ceremony outside our front steps at City Hall on Wednesday evening. We honored the victims, prayed for peace, and joined as a community to hope for swift apprehension of those responsible for the bombings. I never imagined what was yet to come.
Like many other Bostonians, I am having difficulty coming to terms with the events at the Boston Marathon and in the days that followed, especially Thursday night when we lost Officer Sean Collier. Focusing on “normal,” everyday activities is difficult. Sleeping soundly and peacefully is tough. Remembering is painful, but forgetting is not an option.
Yet I have found small ways to begin the healing process. I take overwhelming pride and comfort in knowing just how brave and how dedicated our first responders and public safety officials are in this Commonwealth. I remember to feel fortunate that we have some of the best healthcare facilities, just steps from the finish line of the Marathon, and that such highly skilled and committed healthcare professionals worked through unthinkable circumstances to assist and reassure victims and prevent any additional loss of life. I am grateful to live in a place where we, as a city, region, state, and country have united in support of the victims of the Marathon bombings and their families. I am awed by the words of love and peace that continue to spread widely and rapidly across social media and in messages left throughout the City of Boston. These acts of kindness have, albeit slowly, started us on the road to recovery.
But that recovery will be long, emotional, and, at times, painful for everyone in this community. While many of us have rallied around the motto “Boston Strong” this week, seeking strength just as we seek answers, it is important to remember that it is also perfectly acceptable to be vulnerable, sad, and yes, weak in that search for strength. As we continue to mourn the losses of and pay our final respects to Martin, Krystle, Lingzi, and Sean, and as we continue to pray for and support the more than 200 injured individuals as they face the long process of healing, I want to remind our residents that there are valuable resources and support services available within the City of Somerville, and outside of our borders, offering help for dealing with traumatic loss and coping with difficult circumstances.
As part of the Somerville Health Department, we have a Trauma Response Network with a team of trained, professional counselors and health professionals available for services as needed. For more information on response to trauma, you can visit our Health Department, the Office of Prevention, the Trauma Response Network, and the Riverside Trauma Center (www.riversidetraumacenter.org). The American Red Cross offers a toll-free Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, which provides immediate counseling to anyone who needs help in dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy, and the Cambridge Health Alliance offers counseling services in the Somerville-Cambridge area. We have a tremendous network to help our residents cope with this and any other tragic event, and I encourage you to utilize these services if you need them.
As we begin this first “normal” week in the aftermath of last week’s events, I also find comfort in recognizing the amazing work of law enforcement officials from across the state and the country. The efforts of our local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to apprehend two identified suspects in just four days with extraordinary cooperation by the public is an incredible and valiant feat, and will allow the families of all those affected to begin the healing process, and to lay their loved ones to rest. Thanks to the courageous and tireless efforts of the Boston Police Department, Homeland Security, State Police, FBI, ATF, DEA, local Police, MBTA police, and all other related law enforcement agencies, we can rest easier knowing that those responsible for these senseless acts – these acts of terrorism – have been found and will be brought to justice. Celebrations, however, were quickly dampened as we faced the most somber reality, the tragic loss of life.
This week, officers lost one of their own, and while this in no way diminishes the losses of Martin, Krystle, and Lingzi, nor the very real loss endured by the living victims, the death of MIT Officer – and soon-to-be Somerville Police Officer – Sean Collier is proof that these first responders put their lives on the line each and every day to serve and protect our communities.
For me, the loss of Sean hits even closer to home. For the last five years Sean worked with and for the City of Somerville, whether as a civilian records clerk, or by developing websites for various city departments and programs, or by volunteering his time with youth at the Somerville Youth Development and Boxing Club and with the Somerville Auxiliary Police Department. He moved to Somerville and dedicated his young life to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer, a dream that was to be fulfilled in June of this year.
Sean, you are and will always be a member of the Somerville Police Department.
In the days and weeks that lay ahead, I hope that we can continue to work together to support one another, to promote peace and unity, and to remain “Boston Strong.” Remember to thank the first responders, the doctors, nurses, caregivers, and all those who selflessly risked their lives to protect, serve, and care for us last week, and every day. Remember that the kindness and support we’ve extended to one another in the wake these events should and must continue in the weeks and months ahead as we all continue to heal in our own way. Above all, remember that courage, love, and community must rule over fear, hate, or anger. There are many questions we all want answered, and we must have faith that, just as they did last week, our law enforcement officials will see that those responsible are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
For now, stay strong, stay united, and stay safe. We are Somerville Strong. We are Boston Strong.