The streets of Boston are my refuge. In my favorite moments I am found wandering the humble streets of this city, finding solace in the quiet that somehow co-exists among all of the hustle and bustle in this town. In each neighborhood I find memories.
Quincy Market reminds me of my mother, drawn to the vibrant energy of street performers and endless shacks of food every time she visits. Newbury Street marks days filled with shopping trips that sometimes happen to end with the occasional happy hour or cupcakes. And walking along the Commons and past the brownstones on Commonwealth Avenue is where you can find me, on happy days and on sad days, looking to center myself with the world.
The Boston Marathon bombings took this from me. Not for long, but for a few weeks I was anxiously terrified to leave my room and wander the streets I love – the streets I needed most to help get me through that fear. I was lucky enough to get Boston back – to have it feel like home again – but others are not so fortunate.
Paris is home to 2.24 million people. Beirut, 361,366. Damascus, 1.71 million.
I have to believe that there are people there who also find refuge in the streets of their city. They have their favorite corner shops filled with local cuisine and find quiet in street parks and rivers that carry their own memories. And these things make them happy – make their city home.
But what happens when that home is shaken before you? When the rivers become riddled with rubble and your home falls apart as you sleep peacefully? What happens when the unimaginable happens – when you become a refugee of war, and the world turns a blind eye your way? Where do you find refuge then?
After the recent acts of terror, I’m sure some of these places feel tainted – haunting almost. But after a week of prayer our concern should not lie with Paris and Beirut. With time the blood fades. Villains are caught and persecuted; the explosions disappear. Victims are honored, their lives celebrated. The tears slow to a steady pause, and soon enough Paris becomes Paris and Beirut will feel like home again. I find happiness and comfort knowing that that day will come for others like it did for me.
But for some, I find sadness knowing that that day isn’t just around the corner – and that the rest of the world expects them to wait it out alone.
After five years of fighting an excruciating war that has tainted the place innocent people call home, Damascus, and the rest of Syria for that matter, remains in pieces. The explosions and the shootings – the things we call random acts of terror – are no longer random, but instead a part of their daily lives.
The blood remains. Villains run free and are honored before their eyes. Victims multiply, their lives forgotten as their friends and family too soon become another statistic. Homes are destroyed, and the tears? It seems like there should be none left. But there are. For five years the normalcy hasn’t returned. For five years they have lived in fear.
And now they are refugees of war, yearning for a new home.
Following the Boston Marathon bombings, I was rattled beyond belief. I didn’t eat or sleep for days, my sanity slipping away from me as I remained glued to Twitter in search of updates, reliving my fear again and again with every false alarm arrest or attack on our city. I needed an escape – and luckily, I had one: a cousin’s baby shower the weekend following the marathon. But early Friday morning as I packed myself away for the weekend, the city shut down – nobody in, nobody out. I was trapped. And I felt abandoned. I felt alone.
My solitary confinement lasted a mere 24-hours before the ban was lifted. Tsarnaev was arrested, and a cousin sped into the city to bring me home. But even today, I struggle with the marathon and with that sense of abandonment. A few weeks ago I stumbled across an old email from my gram following the attack: I kept looking for you in the crowds, it read. A voicemail followed from Tuesday morning at 7:23 a.m.: I just wanted to hear your voice this morning, honey. I hope you’re feeling alright. Just go through the day, ok? I fell apart. And when Paris was hit just a few days later, the fear returned.
I’ve since realized that I am lucky to feel these things. It means the terror has left my daily life and has become a memory of the past that, yes, still hauntingly visits when it pleases. But it’s just a visit. Tomorrow is okay and Boston is still home. And for that I am privileged.
This week a number of governors across the United States asked us to close our doors to Syrian refugees – to deny them a new home. In light of the attacks on Paris, they said, it’s just not safe.
When I hear our leaders say we need to close our doors, my heart breaks. You don’t know what it feels like, I think. Have you thought about that – what it’s like to live in terror on a daily basis? To watch the city you love shatter into a million pieces? This is their reality. After five years, Syria is no longer home.
I would hate to abandon these people. To keep them trapped in a country of terror is to tell them our safety is more important than their own. While we live free of war and terror and bloodshed on our streets, we refuse to lend a hand. Too dangerous, we say, because you could be one of them. We tell them that they are equivalent to the people in charge of their demise.
Well, I am not Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
And the people of Syria are not ISIS.
The streets of Boston know the face of refuge and stand tall while Syria falls.
I would be privileged to share my home.