April 17, 2013

Not on scale of 9/11, but anxiety, sorrow, memories to linger

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Francisca Lopez was driving on Interstate 295 late Monday afternoon and noticed a pair of police cruisers on the side of the road. Her heart dropped briefly.

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Responders search the area around the Boston Public Library near the finish line of the Boston Marathon with a ladder truck in Boston Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Two bombs blew up seconds apart Monday at the finish line of one of the world's most storied races, tearing off limbs and leaving the streets spattered with blood and strewn with broken glass. At least three people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy, and more than 170 were wounded. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

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Medical workers aid an injured woman at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon following two explosions there, Monday, April 15, 2013 in Boston. Two bombs exploded near the finish of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing at least two people, injuring at least 23 others and sending authorities rushing to aid wounded spectators. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, visit our special section covering the Boston bombings.

“For a split second, it reminded me of how close we are here to Boston,” she said.

Monday’s bombings, now considered an act of terrorism, are the first such attacks on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001, a day that paralyzed the nation and introduced terms such as “threat level orange” and “homeland security” into everyday language. Reactions to the Patriots Day bombings reflected a similar feeling that the United States might return to that state of fear.

Lopez, 51, who lives in Portland and teaches Spanish at Bates College in Lewiston, was in Spain on sabbatical during 9/11 and said she felt displaced then, a continent away from home.

Monday hit closer to home. She remembered that night that she’s scheduled to take a flight out of Boston next week.

“Of course it gives you pause, but what can you do?” she said.

Although the Boston attack is not likely to have the same lasting impact on the nation’s collective psyche as 9/11 did, the event will resonate for years, especially in New England, said Luisa Deprez, a sociology professor at the University of Southern Maine.

“I think there is a natural proclivity to think of 9/11,” she said Tuesday. “There have been people wondering when this type of thing might happen again. You hope we never get to a place where we almost expect this.”

Richard Shadick, director of the counseling center at New York’s Pace University, said there are similarities to 9/11 in the public’s feelings of uncertainty.

“I think there is a sense of dismay now, too, though, that this doesn’t just happen in New York or Washington,” he said.

USM graduate students Meghan Rivis and Sonja Einsiedler were together in Portland on Monday when they heard about the marathon bombings. Within minutes, they exchanged texts, emails and phone calls with friends and relatives. Once they confirmed that everyone they knew was OK, the women reflected on whether the latest attacks meant people would once again live in fear.

“There was definitely an initial feeling of helplessness and despair,” Rivis, 28, who is from Vermont, said over coffee Tuesday in Portland. She wore a handmade T-shirt with a red heart painted on the front with the word “Boston” written inside. “But for me there is also the question of: What can we do?

As a society, how do we help people who are so disenfranchised, so full of hate that they want to do something like this?”

Einsiedler, 25, originally from Germany, said Monday’s attack has left her with a feeling of anxiety about attending big events or even visiting big cities. She hopes that will pass.

“I have such a hard time understanding what happened and why,” she said. “And also, you think about what else could happen. You hear about North Korea and you can’t help but wonder why there is so much anger.”

Rivis and Einsiedler, who are both studying to be elementary school teachers, said for all the tragedy that came out of the bombings, there was goodness, too, in how people responded.

“There were these incredibly selfless acts – people ripping their clothes off to stop someone’s bleeding,” Rivis said. “You just hope that there is more good than bad.”

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