This week’s events in Boston

As I write this, Greater Boston, including Cambridge, is in a state of lock-down: it has been quite a shock to learn that the terrorism suspects were local residents. Although events are still unfolding outside, I’ve decided to go ahead and post this piece which was written yesterday. Obviously we hope that everyone remains safe.

This week Paul and Liz drafted a joint letter to the learning community regarding the tragic events that unfolded in Boston on Monday. Given that Project Zero is based at Harvard University and that students from one of our participating schools are also from the Greater Boston area, we felt that we could not ignore what had happened. We were able to reassure the learning community that we did not know of anyone from our immediate shared communities who was directly affected by what happened—although regretfully a family connected to another part of Harvard did lose a loved one.

Our team at Project Zero habitually urges Paul to take great care as he walks into unfamiliar and potentially dangerous situations: it was therefore a strange reversing of roles to have Paul be concerned about our safety this week. It was also a reminder of our interconnectedness as human beings. Many students in our learning community are currently thinking about connections between their local neighborhoods and global trends or developments (more on that coming soon). The Boston Marathon involved runners and spectators from around the world, not to mention a large international press corps. The events that took place echoed other acts of violence, including ones that have occurred in the home cities of participants in our project. What happened on Monday does not just affect the people of Boston—nor is Boston’s suffering and resilience unique.

With those sentiments in mind, here is an extract from the letter we sent to students:

One positive thing we have noticed–and which Paul has seen over and over again in his reporting–is that terrible events can bring out the best in people. The first responders were magnificent, for example, and there is definitely a sense in Boston that people are rallying to support one another at this time. Furthermore, those of us who live in the area have been touched by the phone calls and messages we’ve received from concerned friends and family members–a poignant reminder of what is really important as we go about our busy lives. At times like this the natural response is to focus on ourselves, but we can also be reminded that we are a global community. The first person who informed Paul of the tragic news and who expressed sincere condolences and concern for the people of Boston, was a Saudi Arabian citizen with whom Paul was speaking via satellite phone.

We urge all of you to take care and to stay strong. To quote Paul, “while it is okay to be afraid, fear can also be blinding. We must remember that people around the world suffer these tragedies and that we are not alone.”

Finally, teachers and parents who are reading this blog might be interested to listen to this thoughtful conversation between our Harvard colleagues Rick Weissbourd and Betsy Groves; they discuss how to talk about events such as this one with children of different ages. Betsy is the founding director of the Child Witness to Violence Project based at Boston Medical Center.

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