As a Bostonian and Muslim, I wept Monday — and worried

Rabail Baig writes: “Shave your stubble before you come to bed, Haider,” I told my husband Monday night. He looked up at me from the computer chair without the slightest hint of protest and smiled, “of course”. A couple of hours into the night, with him sound asleep right next to me – asleep like nothing had happened – I shivered from post-traumatic stress. Cold sweat trickled down the side of my forehead meeting warm tears at the corner of my eye and disappearing into a big, wet circle on the pillow. It was my second Patriot’s Day Boston Marathon, my husband’s third. I recalled spending all evening answering calls from back home in Pakistan, saying often, “Allah nay bachaya,” (Allah saved us). But did he?

Earlier on Monday, I was sitting with Haider and three other friends around small tables at the Prudential Center food court when we heard, and felt, the loud thud. If we were around a table somewhere in Karachi, Pakistan, my hometown, we would have said a little prayer in our hearts and continued eating, hoping that by the time we were done, the roads would re-open and life would resume. Such is our threshold for bomb-like noises and actual life-consuming explosions.

But in the heart of Boston, on a day of celebration, it could only be Godzilla, or some other giant lizard, someone joked. Within 20 seconds, though, buried under a horde of people and after the ensuing stampede, we ended up on the terrace looking over Boylston Street – a stone’s throw away from where the second blast had just occurred. Soon, a distraught mob pushed us right back into the food court. Unfinished bites and sentences, deserted strollers and upturned chairs – the large mall appeared ghastly.

As we rushed out on to Huntington Avenue, unable to wipe that dreadful sight from our heads, my phone rang. A call from Pakistan. Just then, in those very few seconds, our lives, our identities, made me want to not answer it. Our future – my husband’s career in medicine and mine in journalism, our plans of having a baby, of buying a home of our own, living the American dream someday – ran through my head. I had and have never been more afraid. But I had to answer it. It was Haider’s sister calling to say hello, completely unaware of what had taken place. I quickly hung up after telling her we were safe. Were we? [Continue reading…]

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