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Remembering and Healing Together

Courtesty of Chris Petranech. Citation: cpetranech, “[Untitled],” Our Marathon, accessed April 14, 2014, http://marathon.neu.edu/items/show/8671.

We're posting this today in honor of tomorrow's 1-year-anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing.

What does it mean to remember together?

Silence. That’s what I remember. Silence coated in hazy sunshine and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I spent most of the week of the Boston Marathon Bombing feeling alone—at my desk at work, on the couch or laying in bed at home. I woke the day of the lockdown to the news on WBUR coming from my alarm clock and I sat quietly, anxiously, in my apartment all day. I heard nothing outside, no sirens or cars or people shouting in the alley outside my window. It was totally surreal. I didn’t sleep well for weeks after that happened. I felt scared and alone.

The anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing has been shuffling around in the back of my mind. Then, last week, I woke up to WBUR again and heard someone telling their own story about the bombing. Shane O’Hara, an employee at Marathon Sports (located at the finish line and the site of the first explosion) was talking about abruptly becoming a first responder as he doled out apparel from the store to be used as tourniquets for the victims on the street outside. His words brought me back to that day, but not to my feelings of isolation and loneliness. As his voice cracked, I started to cry, and for the first time felt like I could share the suffering, fear, and love I know connects me to other Bostonians.

The interview I heard was done by the WBUR Oral History Project in partnership with Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive. While there is no shortage of stories, video, and images to document the Marathon Bombing, these projects—intentionally rooted in personal narrative and community history—tell a different story. The experiences shared in these collections through interviews, photographs, and written word are not written for the news or gathered for law enforcement. These are our stories, shared for us to remember and to heal.

I didn’t really know about oral history, or its power, before I started working at JWA. Oral history is collected through interviews where an interviewer asks a narrator (the person telling the story) a series of detailed questions about their life and experiences. The interviewer then sets the narrator’s story into the “grand narrative,” allowing it to both inform and be informed by the collective historical experience. In many ways I have come to see this kind of story collecting as a selfless act. The power of telling your own story to someone who not only listens, but is also invested in your experience and thinks that your story is important, is transformative. And it is not just the act of listening that changes lives. When we record and preserve the experiences of individuals and add them to the news footage and Tweets and images of events like the Marathon Bombing, we infuse humanity back into our collective memory.

On this, the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing, I encourage you to listen to the oral histories collected by WBUR. Browse the anecdotes and artifacts submitted to the digital archive and allow yourself to feel connected to and a part of this community. Violence makes us feel distant from one another—it is a natural human experience. But when we allow ourselves to witness the stories of others, we strengthen ourselves and our community. We remember together, and we heal.

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How to cite this page

Heisler , Etta King. "Remembering and Healing Together." 14 April 2014. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 30, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/remembering-and-healing-together>.

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