Those of you who read this blog religiously (Hi Mom!), and everyone who knows me personally, knows that I am a proud Bay Stater. I grew up in Dedham, which borders Boston to the south. The ride to Copley Square from my local train stop is about 30 minutes. I believe it’s been said that Boston is a small town disguised as a major city and that is so, so true.
The T shuts down at 12:30, making it hard to move about the city too late into the dark. The local sports heroes are followed and revered, similar to how towns in Texas latch onto their high school footballers. The crippling winters and confusing highways give people in the area an anxiety-driven bond that is hard to match. And while Boston’s landscape has shifted over the years, many of its historical landmarks have remained intact.
I moved to New York City and I love it. But there’s a difference. In New York, people in Staten Island have little connection to those in the Bronx. The Upper East Side is only miles from the West Village, but the two areas might as well be in different countries. New York is a city driven by its unique enclaves. While Boston definitely has some of this, it has a much more personal, unified feel.
This is never truer than during the Boston Marathon. Quite simply, it’s a sacred event and a quite literally, a city-wide holiday. Personally, I can recall various moments of my life cheering along the 26.2-mile route, from Hopkinton to that now-infamous section of Boylston Street, holding out water for the runners and giving them the encouragement needed to make the dream of completing a marathon actually come true. The best part of the marathon is that everyone knows someone who knows someone who is running.
I knew someone this year, and chances are if you’re from the city, you did too. It’s Boston in a nutshell.
That’s why, to me, last week’s bombings weren’t just a terrorist act. They were an attack on something that defines us as a city. It was personal. Many of my friends took to Facebook and Twitter to express in no uncertain terms that the terrorists picked the wrong city to pick on. When Stephen Colbert from the hit show The Colbert Report went on a little tangent about the event, talking about why the terrorists picked the wrong city to bomb, many of them proudly showed that off.
I saw people express these sentiments all week long. You don’t mess with us. We are Boston Strong. In fact, “Boston Strong” is the mantra that has risen from this calamity.
And everyone was right. We were right. You don’t mess with Boston. The city not only caught the terrorists, killing one, but it stood united in the face of this atrocity. I couldn’t be prouder of the way everyone has responded. Whether it was first responders, law enforcement officials, police officers, fire fighters, politicians, community leaders, local celebrities, the region’s journalists, or just everyday citizens, it’s been remarkable to see. I hate that this has happened, but it makes me proud that Boston’s resolve was tested and upheld because of it.
The hospitals of Boston—and their doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals—deserve an immense amount of credit. They, too, have been Boston Strong in the wake of this event. I always knew that Boston had some of the best hospitals in the world. Brigham & Women’s, Massachusetts General, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Boston Children’s—the list speaks for itself. It was even confirmed by U.S. News in their annual top hospitals issue and by Leapfrog with its hospital safety scores report.
However, until this unfortunate event, I had luckily never seen it so clearly in real-time. As Alex Rosenau, D.O., president-elect of the American College of Emergency Physicians, wrote in The Boston Globe, “it really speaks well of the Boston emergency medical community that there were so few fatalities.”
On Monday after the bombings, I tweeted this:
Got faith in some of Boston's best public servants, not just the PD and FD, but workers at MGH, Beth Israel, and all our great hospitals
— Gabriel Perna (@HCI_GPerna) April 15, 2013
I didn’t know at the time that this faith would be rewarded. The response and preparation from these medical practitioners was heroic.
The piece in The New Yorker by Atul Gawande, M.D., a surgeon at Brigham & Women’s, gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the doctors and nurses in these hospitals prevented this catastrophe from becoming even worse. Immediately following the bombing, he writes about how those who were working the medical tent at the marathon rushed to help the wounded. (I’d also like to mention that there were doctors and nurses running the marathon that rushed to help. And some runners even continued running to the hospital to donate blood).
Those in the Boston hospitals knew, from Twitter, text messages, and smartphone news apps, very early on, this event was very, very devastating, and they would need “all hands on deck.” From there, he writes, that it was clockwork like efficiency, knowledge from disaster drill training, and long hours that saved many lives. While many are still in the hospital recovering, it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be faced with any more deaths.
(By the way, if you’re interested in an IT perspective of this tragedy, I recommend this blog from John Halamka, M.D., CIO of BIDMC in Boston. He has some fascinating thoughts in particular on how this event shows how much we need health information exchange.)
Of course, our heart goes out to the families and friends of the four people who so senselessly lost their lives, as well as everyone else who was impacted by this tragedy. At the same time, I’m very proud of the work our hospitals did this past week. I’m proud of the work everyone has done. In honor of the memories of Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Martin Richard, and Sean Collier, I look forward to everyone in Boston (and across the country) to continue to act “Boston Strong.”