It began with President Lee Pelton smiling to an overflow crowd of students at the Cutler Majestic Theatre saying, “I just want to soak all of you in right now.”
“I’m so, so glad you are here right now,” he said, “and that we are here together.”
By the time it ended, there were tears, songs, hugs, and an outpouring of thanks, love, and support. The student a cappella group Noteworthy performed the song “Fidelity,” and student leaders showed off a banner with messages of support.
“This was such a horrible thing that happened,” said Lauren Cortizo ’13, through tears, “but I have never felt more love than I have in the past 48 hours.”
Cortizo was one of three students who ran the Boston Marathon who spoke at the Emerson community gathering on April 17—meant for anyone to express their emotions about the twin bombings at the marathon finish line.
One student, a young woman, choked back tears while thanking Pelton for visiting the eight female students who were treated and released from local hospitals after suffering injuries from the bomb blast. Three people died and 184 were injured—many with missing limbs—in what has been described by officials as a terrorist act.
Cortizo started the marathon route with fellow students Christian Bergen-Aragon ’15 and Brendan Scully ’15, all of whom were ordered to stop running by race officials between two and three miles before Copley Square.
Bergen-Aragon and Scully wore official Boston Marathon jackets as they spoke to the Emerson audience.
“I’ll wear this jacket,” Bergen-Aragon said, “and I’ll think about the people who were hurt, and the people who were there to support us and were hurt because of it.”
“When I heard about the blast, my first thought was not about finishing the race,” Scully said. “I was worried for those who were waiting for me.”
Tau Zaman ’13, president of the Student Government Association, said, “Today begins the real marathon.”
“Just by living our day-to-day lives, we are acting in defiance of our pain,” Zaman said. “In this race, there is no finish line. We have to be… resilient for the rest of our lives.”
Elise Harrison, director of Emerson’s Counseling Center, said it is common for people to deal with conflicting emotions.
“In the hours and days that follow, we think about the injustice, we worry about our safety,” Harrison said. “More feelings will emerge as time goes on.”
Harrison said the Counseling Center will be open extended hours for the next few days to help students who may have witnessed the tragedy. She urges those affected to limit watching television news coverage, to spend time with friends and family, get plenty of sleep, eat well, and return to normal routines.
“Watching the same images over and over again can be very traumatizing,” she said. “If you want to stay in touch with what’s happening, read the newspaper, read online, or only watch one news cycle, then turn it off.”
Pelton said Emerson students should remember that “the creative spirit runs through our veins and in our hearts.”
“We are the storytellers, we are the builders of human hopes and aspirations,” he said. “Let us be resilient and, yes, defiant. Resilient in the afterglow of suffering and pain. And defiant in the face of evil and destruction.”
“Beginning today, look through the confusion of the moment and create out of this tide of human despair, pain and want, a sea of joy and light,” Pelton continued. “That is what we do at Emerson. This is who we are. This is our everlasting legacy to each other, to this great city, to the nation, and the world.”