I went to school in Boston. A few days ago, and then again last night, my Facebook news feed exploded with the tragic stories unfolding on the ground in the city where some of my best memories were made. I still have lots of friends there (they lovingly indulge me when it comes to my Yankees cap...), and one by one, through social media, they began to sound off on the states of their safety. Luckily, the news I got was positive, if unbelievably frightening: "I was near the finish line- I'm fine, but shaken" "We're safe, but locked in the house" "Hearing loud BOOMS" .
As I watched the news coverage, something struck me- in the past, one of these people (nightmare-makers?) involved made the statement "I don't have a single American friend." How? How can that be? How can that be true in Boston? Bostonians build relationships, they believe in community, they open their arms as streams of new young people flood the city every year in the hot, end of summer weeks of August.
I went to the Boston Conservatory, an experience that has defined my life and work, both as a professional actor and with Ovation. A small, tight community of actors, musicians, and dancers, we were embraced by a city full of artists. Our professors built a place where we could be safe, and create, and become useful citizens of the planet. They cared about who we were as people, and the student body formed a bond with each other based our shared experiences- ones that shaped us, changed us, and empowered us.
If you go to school in Boston, the city is your campus. We were nestled in a few buildings on the Fenway, not far from Berklee College of Music and Newbury Street, within hearing distance of Fenway Park. We weren't removed from the surrounding life, we were a part of it. We knew the guys in the bodega, the familiar faces of other college students, the owners of the restaurants who would often take pity on a poor college student looking for a bite of something delicious. We jogged along the Charles. The Citgo sign was part of our view.
We became part of the surrounding arts community, personal and professional relationships which I value to this day. In that way, we became part of the city at large. We performed at the theatres in town, visited the museums, watched our professors take the stage. Even if we didn't know each individual involved personally, we were part of the community. We belonged. They welcomed us. They were Boston.
I won't even pretend I can get into the psychology behind the terror- I don't have the knowledge, or the tools, to do any kind of analysis. But as I watched my Boston friends reach out from around the country and the world to check in on each other via social media, there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty- the relationships built during our time in Beantown are strong, and vital, and impactful. They make a difference. They endure.
We talk about building professional and personal relationships often. It's part of what we do, what we believe in, and who we are. We strive to interact with the world around us based on the prinicples of consideration, respect, and honesty- principles I saw exemplified time and time again in college and the years following. It is truly hard to fathom all of the news at the moment. Our hearts break for Boston- but our Boston relationships endure.
Here is how the current students of my alma mater have reacted to the horror around them- singing out, arms around each others' shoulders, hanging on to those relationships. This is the Boston I know: