Still Breathing by Madeleine LaPlante Dube

maddiedubeI would like to introduce Madeleine LaPlante-Dube an “up and comer” in the world of writing and journalism. Madeleine is a Senior at Nipmuc Regional High School and recently started a blog called “Still Breathing” where she is developing her writing skills. I discovered Madeleine’s writing yesterday on a friend’s facebook page;  I clicked a link and began to read and by the middle of her post my eyes had teared up.

The piece titled “The Boston Bombings: Week Anniversary” allows the reader to see the Boston Bombing through her eyes.  Madeleine was incredibly moved by the Boston Bombings and by the strength of Boston and America, but it took her a week to sort through her emotions and the result is beautiful.

Madeleine will be attending Miami University of Ohio to study journalism and writing. Her favorite classes at Nipmuc this year are English and AP Art.  She is a member of  the National Honor Society and serves as the Public Relations Officer for Student Council. She participates in Model U.N., Field Hockey, and Soccer. She has danced for 16 years at Miss Diane’s School of Dance and is one of the editors on the Nipmuc Yearbook.

Below is her post “The Boston Bombings: A Week Anniversary” in it’s entirety and here is the link to her blog site where you can read past and future posts.

The Boston Bombings: Week Anniversary

I recently read a letter by Michael Rogers, a man who will soon become a priest and a native of my state’s capital, Boston. He was extremely forgiving and gracious towards Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a.k.a. suspect number 2, and it was incredibly beautiful to read. Look it up.

I also have a few things to say about the attack on my state’s soil, now that it is the week anniversary of the bombings.

Like Dzhokhar, I was very young when the 9/11 attack brought countless Americans to their brutal and unfair deaths. We were both too young to process the photos of men and women throwing themselves out of the windows of the twin towers, their reflections rippling fluidly in the windows of the building like water running down in rivulets, as they plummeted like fleshy raindrops to the rubble-coated ground. Like Dzhokhar, I was only in elementary school, and did not understand the pictures of the smoke rising like toxic waste into the New York sky. Like Dzhokhar, I was not there to feel the ash on my cheeks as it fell like perverse snow.  Like Dzhokhar, I was a kid. Like Dzhokhar, I still am a kid.

Over a decade later, on Patriots Day, I begin to celebrate the annual event of the Boston Marathon. Like Dzhokhar, I prepare for it. We both prepare for the throngs of people (that gather from all over the world to begin at a starting line that is only a few miles from where I live), the noise, the distractions. We both prepare for the joy, the conversation that will follow once people begin to cross the coveted finish line. I stay at home, painting a project for school in the beautiful hot sun, wearing a fat white headband that pins my curls back. Dzhokhar goes to the race, carrying a heavy bag in the sweltering heat, wearing a bright white baseball cap that pins his curls back. Like Dzhokhar, my mind is on a very important project. I am too busy to notice my brothers’ eyes scanning my painting. Dzhokhar is too busy to notice the security cameras scanning his face.

I am splatter painting, adding the finishing touches to my project. Dzhokhar, as it turns out, is splatter painting too.

My mom comes out in the hot sun. Her eyes are wide and wet.

“A bomb just went off at the finish line of the marathon.”

My face is covered in paint splatters.

In Boston, in my city, Dzhokhar is splatter painting. He even added some textiles to his work, an element that I had originally considered but ultimately ruled out. But he didn’t. He hammers nails into his surfaces. He cracks glass into his surfaces. He polishes shards of metal on his surfaces.  He spreads skin on his surfaces. He embeds bone into his surfaces.

My face is covered in paint splatters.

Dzhokhar takes a second to breathe. All of the hammering and cracking and polishing and spreading and embedding took a bit out of him. I understand. Self expression can exhaust a person. Then he begins to splatter paint again.

“A second explosion went off.”

My face is covered in paint splatters.

My mom’s eyes are wide and wet.

I walk inside from the hot sun and look at the TV. The reporters are trying to peer through the smoke.

I will later see pictures of a sidewalk. It is covered in paint splatters. Red, black, and grey, just like my painting.

I will later see pictures of a man with no legs. His eyes are wide and wet. Big and dark and wet, just like my mom’s. A man in a cowboy hat is rushing with him to an ambulance, clamping long, dark strings of exposed arteries in his fist so that the victim may keep his blood.

For my project, I was painting on an 8 ft by 4 ft piece of plywood. For his project, Dzhokhar was painting on an entire city block.

And I thought my painting was big.

I was not old enough to experience the feeling of terror that goes along with, well, terrorism. I realize that the Boston bombings, while horrific, are not much in comparison to 9/11. But the feeling of utter disbelief, of being out of control, of losing some of my city’s people, of my city’s sidewalk being caked in blood and body parts of my country’s people, that’s something that is comparable. And, unlike Michael Rogers, I hate Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the people they were working with for causing that kind of horror. For killing 4+ people, all under the age of 30. One under the age of 10. For stealing body parts and normal lives.

I hate Dzhokhar for throwing bullets and bombs at the police force in his attempt to escape. I hate him for running over his older brother with a car while he was trying to get away. I hate him for seeking refuge in a boat in a backyard in Watertown as he bled out.

And yet, as I type that last sentence, my heart catches on “seeking refuge.” Because that statement seems to make him a human again, a person, a kid, like me. And a killer can’t be human, right? He can’t bleed out, can he? He couldn’t have felt fear, could he? He couldn’t have realized, in the midst of his actions, that he could never get the best of Boston or America, right?

I’m 18. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is 19. He does not have a future, he no longer has a brother, and he committed an act of hatred and malice towards his own kind: other humans. But he failed. I feel no pity, and yet it’s sad. So young, so much promise, so much pressure. Something had to finally break. But when it did, the people of Boston were there to fill in the gaps. To give blood immediately following the bombing. To report sightings of the perpetrators. To heal. To hunt.

So while the victims of the bombing washed the blood from their faces, I washed the paint from mine. Our wide eyes closed in rest when the kid was found, our tears squeezed out of them. For Dzhokhar and the victims, the road is long, rocky, and unsure. But Boston, if anything, is bigger, better, and closer. It took Bostonians 5 days to find Dzhokhar. 5 days. The police ran a marathon of their own.

And who knows? In the next few years, maybe we’ll see some of the victims back in the hot sun, running a marathon too. I hope to see them along side the other marathoners, cheering, breathing, smiling as one entity, just like when the Yankees sang “Sweet Caroline” for the Sox.

I’m extremely proud of my state of Massachusetts. Don’t mess with Boston.

As for you, Dzhokhar, good luck with the rest of your life, kid. You could have been something great.

2 Comments

  1. I am so proud of this young woman for her ability to channel her inner voice in an elegant and respectful manner. The pen is mightier than the sword! Best of luck Maddy as you graduate and move forward and change this world…one blog at a time!

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