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All tragedy is local

Posted by Dr. Suzanne Koven  April 19, 2013 05:40 PM

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kenmoresq.jpeg I’m sitting here stranded at home, along with thousands of my neighbors, thinking about Boston. About how long it took me to like it. Even to understand it.

Shortly after we moved here 23 years ago with our baby daughter, my husband and I went to a party. I met a man who had moved here 20 years earlier and asked him how long it took before he felt at home. “Hasn’t happened yet,” he answered.

But it did happen, eventually, for me.

A New Yorker, I came to appreciate the differences among Boston, New Hampshire, and Maine accents--often caricatured interchangeably. I came to consider Manhattan-style clam chowder perverse. Mostly I came to love the odd provinciality of this very sophisticated city. Example: when I ask one of my older patients if her adult children live nearby, she’ll invariably answer something like: “Unfortunately, no. I live in Medford and my daughter lives in Andover.”

Around the time we moved, someone told me a joke, meant to convey both the provinciality and the grandiosity of this city nicknamed “The Hub of the Universe”:

Headline in the Boston papers after a nuclear holocaust?
Hub Man Injured in Blast!

Today that joke doesn’t seem so funny.

The hospital where I work is on lockdown. Sean Collier, the MIT police officer killed, allegedly, by the same men who planted bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, died there last night. A patient of mine who lives in Dorchester, arrived at my office in tears on Tuesday. She was close to the family of Martin Richard, the eight year old boy who died at the Marathon. Jessica Kensky, a nurse at our hospital, lost a leg on Monday, as did her newlywed husband.

And that’s just what I know, in my hospital, what I’m thinking about now. Everyone here today has their own version.

I’ve balked at some of the comparisons, made in the past few days, between Boston and Syria or other places afflicted more frequently with terror. I’ve never felt one group’s pain negates another’s.

But today I’m also thinking about those other places. About their countless
“I know someone who..”s.

The late Speaker of the House, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill of Cambridge, Massachusetts, said, famously, “All politics is local.”

All tragedy is, too.

photo: NBCnews

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Suzanne Koven, M.D. practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She writes a monthly column for the Globe's G Health section and her essays have appeared in the More »


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