It is always sad when you see terror strike anywhere in the United States and the world. But it is especially heart-breaking when you see terror strike in your home town and see an amazing and historical event that you grew up watching suddenly become a symbol of national tragedy. I truly mean it when I say I am VERY upset to see such unnecessary loss of life and injuries come out of something that was a family event and a great symbol of national pride and a true world event.
Many students who are a part of my program here in Rome had loved ones who either ran in or watched the Boston Marathon from the sidelines yesterday. One of my roommates has friends who were next to one of the explosions when it detonated but thankfully are fine. I didn’t learn of the attack until I came back to my apartment after having dinner with my mother and family friends visiting me in Rome this week around 11:00p.m. local time. When my roommates told me what had happen I froze and for the first time felt like I could have actually had friends or family who were in danger in one of these mass terror situations. These situations have always been far away from home or unrelated to me, but suddenly one had occurred right in my own backyard. I know many people who were running and watching from the sidelines and luckily everyone is okay. But unfortunately for at least 3 families this morning everyone is not okay, in addition to multiple people who lost limbs or suffered other critical injuries.
I realize I am not a law enforcement official or a person investigating this incident who has all of the information and details of the attack. However, I do know that this without a doubt has to have been some kind of act of terror. The fact that there were 2 explosions and a possible third incident at the JFK Library (it’s not clear if this incident is connected to the explosions) makes this situation have most of the tall-tale signs of a terrorist attack, and several members of Congress, including Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, have agreed with this.
Here in Rome, attacks like this just simply aren’t expected or common. Violence is not ingrained in the culture as it is in America. Italians who I’ve spoken with here are still in disbelief that something like the Newtown, Conn. shootings can even happen. Very few people own guns here and security is much more lax. All semester long I have continuously read about more shootings and more senseless acts of violence occurring back home and I can’t help but feel more safe here in Rome. It is ironic that I feel safer in Rome, a city that I have come to love but is still largely a strange place to me, compared to my home town of Boston where I have lived for 20 years. It is no wonder that I am nervous to soon be re-entering a country where I have to wonder every day whether I will encounter such horrific acts of violence, whereas in Rome such acts are simply unthinkable.
It is disheartening that as an American living abroad I have to hear the Romans talking about America with such shame that Americans are a violent people who breed violence in their culture. Living with this stereotype has definitely been felt as an embarrassment this semester. And I’m not sure how we can change this stereotype nor do I think anyone has the exact remedy. Terrorism and violence can never be stopped unless those who participate in those activities want to stop them. Anyone who tells you that terrorism can one day be overcome is lying to you; there will always be someone ready to step in as soon as one leader is taken down. All we can do is hope that the frequency of these unspeakable attacks decreases in the future.
On a much happier note, the weather in Rome has been absolutely beautiful over the last week and spring time has definitely kicked into full gear in Italy. My mother and friends have really lucked out weather wise and have been having a blast seeing some of Italy and Europe’s most popular sites. So far they have seen Florence, two Tuscan hill towns, Venice, and took a tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday and today will see the Colosseum and Roman Forum and I will be taking them to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and some other major sites that make this city so easy to fall in love with. They have had full schedules every day but I am very proud of them for trooping through it all and seeing what they have seen so far!
I am still working on my posts from Ireland and this weekend. This coming weekend my program is taking us to the Amalfi Coast for an overnight trip. We will stop in Sorrento, the sun-drenched island of Capri, and en route back to Rome stop at the Ancient Roman town of Pompeii, buried under volcanic ash from an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. I am very excited to see Pompeii as it is a place I have studied on several occasions in elementary and middle schools and to finally walk through its ancient streets will bring everything I have learned full circle.
Stay tuned for more posts, and as I sign off I would also like to thank the first-responders who helped the injured yesterday at the Boston Marathon. They put themselves in danger to help those in some of the most terrifying situations and they deserve to be recognized for the bravery the exhibited not only yesterday, but everyday on the job for the horrible things they have to see and deal with. Today, as I enjoy the beauty of Rome under this plentiful spring sunshine, I will be thinking of all those in Boston affected by yesterday’s attack and hope that those who have suffered tragedy can find strength to persevere and stand together in true American spirit.