If you were given the chance to talk to those impacted by last week’s Boston Marathon bombings, what would you say?
Maybe something like this: “Our hearts go out to the families who died and to those who were injured by this senseless act.”
Perhaps: “With prayers for the victims, their families and all affected including the first responders, medical personnel and the everyday ‘heroes’.”
Or simply: “Boston Strong.”
These are just a few of the messages residents and public officials have scribed into a black journal on the counter of the receptionist’s desk inside Falmouth Town Hall next to a white orchid with a white card that begin with the handwritten words “The town of Falmouth United with the City of Boston.”
The book was placed there on Monday morning and will remain at that location for at least another week—there is a possibility that it will make the rounds to other town facilities—before it will eventually be sent up to Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s office in Boston.
With the only publicity about the book so far being an e-mail sent from Town Manager Julian M. Suso to employees on Monday followed by Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Kevin E. Murphy mentioning the book at his board’s meeting later that day, seven pages worth of notes—some just signatures, others longer expressions of sympathy and support—had already been filled as of yesterday afternoon.
Mr. Suso’s wife, Stephanie, is being credited for suggesting the idea which her husband quickly passed on to Mr. Murphy and the other members of the board, who threw their support behind it.
“Most people want to be able to express their thoughts and condolences to somebody and someone and this gives them the opportunity to do that to the folks in Boston who experienced it firsthand,” Mr. Murphy said. “It lets them know that other people in this state and this country feel for them.”
It gives residens a chance to say 'we are thinking about you' and that Boston is important to us, that although you are at some distance to us, what happened in your community has affected all of us.
Karen M. Hickey, the receptionist at town hall, has served as the unofficial guardian of the book, standing watch over it as town employees and residents have taken time to jot their thoughts into it.
While most do so quietly, she said there have been those who have outwardly shown their emotions, expressing sadness over the horrific actions surrounding the marathon.
Ms. Hickey, who has run the marathon in the past, said that tragedy has not been far from her mind.
“When I get sad about that terrible day, I hum or sing ‘Sweet Caroline.’ It makes me Boston Strong,” she wrote.
The Book's Relevance
Mr. Suso said the importance is less in the book itself than what it represents to those writing in it and those who will eventually read it. In essence, he said, it provides an avenue for those impacted by the tragic events of last week a way to heal their emotional wounds. “It is the right thing to do,” he said. “It gives residents a chance to say ‘we are thinking about you’ and that Boston is important to us, that although you are at some distance to us, what happened in your community has affected all of us.”
Despite the distance between Falmouth and Boston, he said, the connection between the two communities and what occurred last week is strong. He pointed out the number of residents who have participated, observed and assisted with the historic race, not only this year but in year’s past.
Anyone interested in signing the book can visit Falmouth Town Hall between the hours of 8 AM and 4:30 PM.
Among those are marathon director David McGillvray, who also wears the same hat for the Falmouth Road Race, and Falmouth Recreation Director Helen Kennedy, a longtime marathon volunteer who was helping out this year at the marathon’s start in Hopkinton.
Ms. Kennedy has also run the race four times and has been deeply impacted by the bombings, terming it a devastating moment for the city and country. “It really bothers me they targeted an event like that. It’s been very difficult for me,” she said.
When she received Mr. Suso’s e-mail this week she immediately went down to town hall to share her thoughts with those in Boston.
“What happened on 4-15-13 is beyond understanding” are among the words she wrote that express her confusion over the bombings.
Much of her difficulty, she said, has to do with her ties to the race and the realization it could have been her or a loved one dealing with the harsh reality of death or injury. “When I ran my kids were standing in the same spot where one of the bombs went off,” she said. “This could have happened to any of us. That is the part that is so difficult.”
Mr. Suso, who previously served as the town manager of Framingham—the third community on the 26.2 mile Boston Marathon route—knows all too well the importance to the state and the country.
The senseless attack on that Boston institution, he said, will have a ripple effect on how Falmouth prepares for its larger community events, including the 4th of July fireworks and the road race. “We are taking every effort to ensure the safety of the people and we are taking that responsibility very seriously as had Boston,” Mr. Suso said. “It wasn’t that they overlooked anything. It’s just a somber reminder that tragedies can occur even when you do everything right. We want that to be a lesson and guide us as we move forward.”
And for Falmouth perhaps the greatest lesson resides inside that black book that sits quietly near the entrance to town hall.