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The week of April 15 changed everything

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By Dan Cortez

DanCortez“Boston is probably the only major city that if you f*#% with them, they will shut down the whole city …  stop everything … and find you.”

It’s hard not to agree with the sentiment expressed in this tweet by Adam Sandler, a New Englander himself, shortly after last month’s horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon.  

Just as on September 11, 2001, I learned of the explosions while listening to the radio. Not yet knowing the severity of the events, I proceeded to take my 14-month-old son to get his first barbershop haircut. 

That’s when the news worsened. My little boy, sitting on my lap, began to cry uncontrollably. The shop was crowded yet quiet, as everyone held their breath, their hands either on their heads or covering their mouths. Although my baby’s crying was about his haircut, his heavy sobs must have expressed the feeling everyone in the shop was beginning to experience. 

The barber never finished – I had to get home and comfort my little boy. That moment was the beginning of a long and surreal week filled with sorrow, anger and anticipation. What made the Boston bombings so unique, compared to other terror attacks, is that a real-time manhunt ensued, filled with confusion, erroneous reporting and terrible speculations. 

By now, most people have learned of the many heroic acts displayed by everyday people like Carlos Arredondo. The Costa Rica native who was handing out American flags to honor fallen soldiers, including his own son, came to the aid of a man who had both of his legs blown off below the knee. For a long time, I couldn’t get the image of “the man in the cowboy hat” wheeling the injured individual to safety out of my mind.

A few days later, those thoughts were interrupted when I learned of a shooting on the MIT campus minutes before I was going to turn in for the night. I found myself glued to my television and laptop, flipping channels and surfing the web to find out as much information as I could, thinking there might be a connection to Monday’s events. It was bizarre, seeing the now famous events develop in real time. I finally had to go to bed at four a.m.  

That next morning, I reflected about my own place in Boston. Moving here was a culture shock in many ways. As much as I had networked and met many wonderful people, becoming active in two Latino professional organizations, I still felt like a perpetual visitor to a city filled with so much history and culture. Plus, I was a rare Chicano, a pocho lost in Boston. 

But, the week of April 15 changed everything. I began to feel an affinity with a town that I previously thought of as somewhat intimidating, whose residents seemed unfriendly to those not like them. Boston, after all, does have a history marked with racial strife. 

I’m not sure what I would have done had I attended the Marathon that fateful day. Our minds can be filled with “what ifs” in these situations. I like to think that “if” I had been there, I would have run to the aid of my fellow Bostonians.

Prior to moving to Boston with his family, Dan Cortez managed and facilitated the Hispanic Leadership Institute for Valle del Sol. Born in Juarez, Dan grew up in Peoria and graduated from ASU with a B.S. in Business. He previously wrote the column “Pocho Keen” for LPM. Dan and his wife Maria have two sons, Nicolas George and William Daniel. 

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