A community project hosted at Northeastern University

"Will You Be On The Sidelines in 2014?"


This content was created by a student in Victoria Papa's Advanced Writing for the Social Sciences course at Northeastern University in Fall 2013. The students in the course each created two exhibits, the first directed toward a public audience and the second directed toward researchers in their various academic fields (economics, international affairs, political science, etc.). The students publicly presented their exhibits on December 5th at Forum Restaurant, which was heavily damaged by the second bomb during the Boston Marathon.

Text from digital exhibit "Will You Be On The Sidelines in 2014?" by Maggie Soto:


One unforgettable day changed the way people will regard 117 years of tradition. On April 15th, 2013 the two explosions that went off near the finish line of the cherished historic Boston Marathon left a mark on many, near and far. The Marathon, Boston’s largest annual event, was featured as headline news on national and international stages and took over social media sources such as Twitter and Facebook. In the moments, hours, days and weeks after the bombs detonated it became news that was impossible to avoid.

It was like any ordinary day. I was sitting at the front desk of my co-op office in Washington, D.C., surfing the web and scrolling through Facebook during my lunch break. I recall coming across a status that stated verbatim: “Bombs went off at the finish line.” Initially, I brushed off the idea thinking it was a cheap joke and that the guy who wrote the status was a complete jerk. It took me a few more minutes to contextualize the statement. In my mind all I could think was, “Of course, it’s Marathon Monday in Boston. Wait, did that status reference the finish line?” I began to refresh my news feed at lightning speed. More reference to bombings, loud noises, screams, and chaos filled the page. I could hardly process what I was reading. I quickly ran into the back of the office to switch on the news. As I finally flipped to MSNBC, I watched the first aired video clips of the attacks. For minutes my eyes were glued to the screen, the same clips played over and over and over again. My next reaction was to scramble to call, text, contact, and communicate with anyone and everyone in Boston, Massachusetts, and New England. I needed to know that my friends and my family were safe. I must have sent out 100 “Are you okay? Be safe.” texts. My breathing slowed and I exhaled in relief with each reply I received. I left work early that day because major transportation in the city was being shut down and monitored. When I walked through my front door, I ate my dinner in silence, checked my inbox for incoming NU alerts and fell asleep on the couch to the sound of news anchors discussing the details of the ever unfolding events from that day.


After the attacks, once shock had set in, I realized, the reason why I was so invested in what happened was not only because I am an American citizen and this was clearly the biggest attack on the United States since 9/11, but because these places and faces shown on national television were from my home. I could not count the number of times that I was standing in the very spot where the bombs detonated.

What do the words Copley Place mean to you? How about Boylston Street? Even more precisely, Sugar Heaven? Before the Boston bombings, I had different associations for each of these places. I will never forget running into Sugar Heaven, the candy store on Boylston Street, my sophomore year to purchase those ridiculously oversized crazy colored lollipops to complete a friend’s Katy Perry costume for Halloween. Today, when I think about Sugar Heaven, I’m tainted by the vivid images of shattered glass, blood, and people in need of help. I could hardly wait for my return to Boston to write over these still frames that filled my mind.


Paying a visit to Boylston Street was high on my list of things to do upon my return to Boston. Walking on the streets felt the same. The restaurants and shops that I passed were up and running in full swing. You would never know that tragedy struck the Boston community by people watching at the scene of the crime. And then, you see the finish line. You begin to notice the black markings on the sidewalk, you hear construction noises, camera flashes and tourists fill the area, and you are forced to remember what happened. You remember but when you look around a second time, you can see that Boston is working to overcome the tragedy. People are still shopping and eating, smiling, and laughing. Parents walking in the area hold their children’s hands. College students chat over drinks for happy hour. Life goes on.


Life in Boston and at Northeastern University has “gone on” to create a stronger sense of community. Everyone in the community has this strange connection because of the events that took place. Even if people weren’t directly impacted, they are aware of what happened and how it shaped the community that they are a part of today.

In an effort to grasp the sentiment of Northeastern undergraduates towards the attacks and the future of the Boston Marathon, I conducted a small survey for my exhibit work for Our Marathon. The overwhelming response was that the 2013 Boston Marathon attacks would not deter them from attending the 2014 Boston Marathon. In fact, most people surveyed indicated that they felt an obligation to attend and support the historical event in some way, shape, or form. When asked “Why do you plan on attending the Boston Marathon in 2014?” one peer responded, “It's probably the most ‘Boston’ thing you can possibly do, and I'd like to experience it at least once while I'm here.” Many responses included phrases like attending “as a sign of respect,” or “because we should all show our support.” The response that stood out to me the most was “because you can’t live in fear.” For many, attending the Marathon symbolized a representation of “Boston Strong,” which is most likely why 74.6% of the students surveyed said that they would probably, if not definitely, attend to the 2014 Marathon.

Attend BM2014 (AWD3308)
Survey Monkey

Attendance Results

October 2013

“The tragedy made everyone take a step back and think about how much they love their city and how much it means to them. We all felt and continue to feel protective over our city, and I personally have a lot of pride saying not only that I go to school in Boston, but I am from Boston. It's the best city on Earth, and it's full of heart, and that has proven itself in the months following the bombing.” - Madeline Schroter

The sense of community has strengthened both in Boston and at Northeastern University. Many Northeastern students replied to the survey not only saying that they would attend the Boston 2014 Marathon but that they would also volunteer at the Marathon if their busy college schedules will allow it. The Northeastern community was heavily involved in the aftermath of the attack and, according to some students, this caused Northeastern to be a “more close-knit” community. One student felt that “most people in Boston grew a little closer together, not just at Northeastern; I think everyone realized that as a city, when we pull together, it's easier to pull through hardships like this.” Northeastern students continue to walk down Huntington sporting their commemorative “Boston Strong” t-shirts and bracelets. Northeastern banded together to overcome the attacks to stay strong. Northeastern and Boston will only continue to grow stronger


Maggie Soto


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