In 95% of first-time conversations in the state of Vermont, one person asks the other: “Are you a native Vermonter?” or some variation on that question. Migration is a huge issue throughout the state’s history; all that coming and going, especially in the last few decades, means that it’s rare for a person to have more than one or two generations in the state. Those with longer genealogies wear them as a badge of pride.
The right answer to the question is that you are from Vermont; the next-best-thing is to prove, somehow, that you wish you were. I tend to equivocate, and say that I came up for college, and lived here for a few years; then I left; now I’m back.
Today, someone asked me the question and I said firmly and proudly, “No. I’m from Boston.”
One year ago today, I was frantically flipping from channel to channel, listening to NPR, refreshing Boston.com, refreshing Facebook, refreshing Twitter. I had friends running the Marathon. I had friends watching from the sidelines. I had been a spectator myself, many times.
Everyone I knew was okay, but I remember the feeling of desperate heartbreak, and distance, and deeply personal grief like it was yesterday. It still is yesterday, in a way.
It turns out not everyone I knew was okay, after all. Two days later, a man I had known as a boy – in passing – in the hallway – in the cafeteria – never too well but well enough to picture his face immediately when I heard – was killed. His name was Sean Collier.
Thank you to the helpers, and may Boston continue to stay strong.