I used to not cry about things like this

by Janelle Hanchett

I used to not cry about things like this.

The big tragedies. The ones that kill and kill and kill.

Columbine. 9-11.

I don’t think I cried about those. Not even a single tear.

Maybe I was just too self-centered. Maybe too young. Maybe I just didn’t get it, couldn’t feel it.


Maybe I hadn’t lived long enough to have that pain mean something, to me, safe and protected hundreds of miles away.

It used to feel unreal.

Like it was sad. “Wow, that’s sad.” But I didn’t cry. Because really. What do I care? It’s not me. I mean I cared because it’s sad, but it didn’t affect my life.

Or maybe I’m just an asshole.

I don’t know, I just didn’t cry.


But I cried today.

I was sitting in a staff meeting and I read an article on my phone. I read the words “8-year-old boy” and I put the phone down and I closed my eyes. And I fucking cried.

I felt so tired. Just so tired, beat.

I don’t know what I was crying about. I don’t know those people. I don’t know that boy. I’ve never been to Boston. But it was like this pain just came from the depths of me, out of nowhere and everywhere, from something that makes me the same as the mother who lost her son today and the people bleeding and the humanity.

I felt crushed under the weight of an idea of a boy gone.

A boy gone.

And when I cried the third time driving home, I realized I was wrong.

I know him. I’ve always known him.

I loved him.

I love him now.

I love him with all my damn heart. Because he’s a boy like mine or nothing like mine, and there’s something I recognize in him, something I know, like I know the people murdered and the youth bullied and the hatred and the war and your grandmother who passed away yesterday. And mine, who died 4 years ago.

A soul. Two eyes, hair, little hands and skin and a voice.

My boy. Yours.

If you let yourself go you’ll feel it too, the knowing. The friendship, the love, fond recognition of faces you’ve never seen. I know you.

And I wish you weren’t gone.

In a few days it will all be back to normal. The Facebook feed will be all the old meaningless shit and the news will have moved on and nobody will care except the distant passing glance. Of remembrance.

But at least today I cried, for an old friend, for a boy who was born and lived and died, like I have, and will, and you.


My old friends.

I guess I cried for you today.

hope i can recognize you tomorrow


24 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | April 15, 2013
  • Katie


  • Mommyproof

    That’s the thing about children. They make us understand, remember and CRY for tragedies like this one. Because a child dying in a tragedy like this is truly, truly wrong. Thanks for this post. xox

  • House of Hale

    I found the opposite true of myself today. Normally I am a blubbering fool when things like this happen, but today I am just tired. Tired of hearing about another tragedy, tired of all of the pointless sadness, tired of the fighting over everything, tired of the threat of wars, tired of the political wars… tired…and jaded. 🙁

  • L

    I did not cry earlier today. I think I was too angry.

    Then I saw this tonight, and I cried my eyes out.


  • Merry Welker-Tolla

    I cried today thinking of how stubbornly angry I’ve been about having to move twice and especially about having to leave Boston. Then I saw that row of flags (at the finish line) that I stood by last year with my 3 children and my husband. I thought about how we would most certainly have been standing there again today had we not moved 3 months ago. I thought about how 4:09 was the time at which I finished my last marathon (the same finishing time the bombs went off). It did not go unnoticed that 8 is so very close to 7, our boys’ age. And then, a double murder in Davis on the same day. I have been strongly reminded that *I* am not in charge. And there is good reason for that. One person in a tracked house in “Lilly White Livermore” was filled today with humility and gratitude.

  • Meredith

    Beautifully written.

    I love your blog.
    You say what I feel/felt/want to say.
    I know that’s cheesy, but tis true.
    thank you

  • kathy

    The 8yo made me sad too. But, I have to say, I mourn more for the 8 year olds in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan who have been the victims of mindless violence. One day, surely, we will all stop being fuckers.

  • Michelle


  • Bridgette

    My boy is 8. I can completely relate to how you felt. I don’t have words for the sadness this caused me. I have avoided all images of the event because I can’t see it. Reading it is enough for me right now. It’s just too much. Too much…

  • Marianne

    Beautiful. I have an 8 year old boy. You’re right — we all knew that little boy. And all the others.

  • Andrea B (@goodgirlgonered)

    You said it a million times more intensely than I did. But yes. Yes. As a parent we feel it so differently. It’s more raw. I have not cried yet. I’m still numb. But yes, that boy. So sad.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • sarah

    Thank you for so eloquently expressing how so many if us feel right now. I hope they skin the bastard(s) responsible.

  • Corinne

    Thanks for your words.

    RIP beautiful boy

  • Cindy Holt Perdue

    Wow, I too cried this morning. Thanks for your words.

  • Vanessa

    I was just watching the news this morning for an update, and they showed a picture of this little boy. He was with his mom and sister, waiting for his dad to cross the finish line. Mom and sister are both seriously injured. I feel devastated for this father. Who knows (yet) what terrible injuries his remaining family has suffered. The worst/scariest thing about being a parent is the thought that you can’t protect your children. Thank you for writing about it so beautifully, Janelle.

  • sara

    thank you.
    this is my city, this is my home, my streets, my beautiful town. these were my people, my friends and family and coworkers running on my holiday. this was my day, Bostons unique holiday, the start of spring, of summer, of warmth and being outside after so many months of dark and cold. we go out, we celebrate the start of our nation with my team in Fenway, at the Garden, my runners in Copley. This is my house.
    My husband was at Mass General, he had to walk through those crowds of wounded and worried and crying, take the T through evacuated stations, take a train home to his boy who just wants to see his dad, his Martin Richard at his finish line. He goes back in today. This is my house.
    It was timed to hit us, not the elite runners, the international force who run to win, but us, the locals, the Americans, the ones who are here to run for charities and friends and personal goals. This is my house, and yours and everyone’s. so thank you for caring for us.

  • Shan

    If I couldn’t avoid the details, I have always cried like a baby, but in private.

    Yesterday, for me, was two hours of waiting to hear that both local moms from my running group were okay. They are. I couldn’t deal with any more until I was home, alone in a dark room last night.

  • Shauna


  • Danie'

    I was the same way until I had kids, I couldn’t watch the news anymore after I found out. All these poor people just having a wonderful day, when suddenly explosions start going off and what was once a fun event is now a tragic happening. I think it really hit home now because we know it could have been on our own street corner, at our parade or festival, or worse at our children’s schools. How can we not cry at thought of the hurt we’d feel if these people were our own family….our own children.

  • Heather

    Oh wow….I didn’t think it was possible for me to love you anymore than I already do…but I was wrong! <3

  • Heather

    I’ve come back to read this 3 times! You just always seem to know what is in my heart. when I saw the picture of the little boy at the finish line, I saw my 8 yr. old boy, and every boy in his class, and every boy I have ever known…and my heart broke, because every boy..and girl has the right to wait at a finish line with excitement and not have to be afraid.

  • Liz

    Thank you so much for your beautiful words. Boston is my hometown. You have captured just what I feel as a mother…”and I wish you weren’t gone.” Perfectly said.
    Thank you.

  • Andrea

    Really great post, and really so true. It would be sad if we didn’t cry.

  • Tokarz

    I wish I wrote that.