by Madeline Rosenberger
BU News Service

It is hard to describe what it was like watching the Boston Marathon bombing while sitting in my apartment in Dublin. Helpless is the first word that comes to mind. Frantic is another. For weeks my friends and I would talk about how upset we were to be missing Marathon Monday. We wanted so badly to be there to celebrate and join in the revelry, but alas, we had to go to work here in Ireland.

That evening, I was lying on my bed reading a book when I heard my friend screaming my name. When I asked her what was wrong, she said “Have you heard? About the bombs? The marathon was just bombed.”

I felt my heart stop and my knees began to buckle. I thought I was going to pass out. I told myself to breathe and quickly logged online to see what was happening. It was everywhere – unknown casualties and dozens injured with two explosions near the finish line.

Everyone in my apartment (all Boston students) was hysterical. Phone lines were down, no way to call our friends to see if they were safe. Facebook and Twitter were our only links to our fellow Bostonians. Whenever a friend logged on, we instantly chatted them to see if they were safe, who they were with and if they knew of anyone else who was safe…or wasn’t.

After hours of watching live streaming, chatting on social media and checking all the person-finders we could, we slowly checked off our lists of friends – all were safe.

We sat around our apartment for hours, none of us wanting to sleep – not that we could anyway. We watched the live stream in silence, only speaking to share a new headline that popped up online: “Two confirmed dead in Boston Marathon explosions,” “Homemade bombs detonate in Boston,” “Two dead and 100 injured in marathon explosions,” “Death toll rises to three in Boston Marathon bombing.”

I tried so hard to understand how this could happen. Why would someone want to bomb the most joyous occasion in Boston’s social calendar? A little boy was dead and so was a grad student at my beloved university. Another BU student was injured and I couldn’t figure out why.

At least for a while I hoped that it was just some freak accident. In the back of my mind, I knew that one explosion could be an accident, but two was cause for suspect. Then police confirmed they were bombs and it all became even more horrific. This was intentional. Someone wanted to hurt Boston, my Boston.

I couldn’t help but feeling guilty that I wasn’t there. While I am happy that I was out of harms way, I can’t get rid of this helpless feeling; knowing that I could have been there to hold my friends close, offer up an extra bed to stranded runners, be a part of the relief movement and just be there to help the city I love.

On Thursday, Dublin City University put on a gathering for us to mourn those lost in the marathon bombings. I was asked to light a candle for Krystle Campbell, one of the victims. Although my hands were shaking, I lit the candle and returned to my seat to embrace by fellow classmates. Administrators from our school in Dublin were extremely supportive, knowing how difficult it was for us to be so far away in a time of such distress.

I know that BU students studying abroad in Sydney held a vigil on Wednesday and those in the London program gathered together to watch the news on the Monday of the bombings. From oceans away we still felt the pain of those bombs. You could take us out of Boston, but you can’t take Boston out of us.

On Friday we woke up to reports of a dead MIT police officer. We had exams that day, so we tried not to think about it, but it was no use. We rushed through our finals so we could return to our rooms and watch reports of the manhunt that soon ensued. At 1:56 am Dublin time, the final suspect was taken into custody and we danced around the apartment screaming the lyrics to Dropkick Murphy’s I’m Shipping Up to Boston.

Boston is wicked strong and they will pull through this. Those of us abroad will soon be returning home to Boston, finally able to walk the brick roads, sit in the Boston Commons, feel the breeze coming up from the Charles River and truly understand like never before what it means to be a Bostonian.

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Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson is an Associate Professor of the Practice, Online Journalism, Boston University.
Michelle Johnson

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