“They picked the wrong city”


Whoever planted the bombs picked the wrong city if they were trying to kill a lot of people, said Dr. Ron Medzon, one of the ER doctors at Boston Medical Center responsible for saving many lives on Monday.  From the nurses and doctors who were tending blisters and dehydration before their first aid station became a field hospital, to the people who ran towards the blast to see if they could help, to the many small kindnesses displayed by Bostonians, this is a story not just about tragedy and terrorism, but about heroism, sacrifice, and enduring values.

We have lived through so many shocking acts of violence in the last decade or so — from 9/11 to the Aurora shooting to Newtown.it does feel more personal when it strikes closer to home.  At times like this do you  question the value of what you contribute? My work centers around entertainment, voice and music – it’s hard to compare with literally saving someone’s life.  But, today, which also happens to be World Voice Day, I am reminded of the reasons for what I do. 

When I was an adolescent, the horror of the Vietnam war was broadcast on TV every night.  I dropped out of high school to join the peace movement in Washington, DC.  One night, walking home through the back streets around George Washington University, I ran into a confrontation that had become violent.  A number of  student protesters had overturned a car and were throwing bricks and bottles from behind it at police, who were responding with tear gas.   But just beyond the range of the tear gas, was another group that had gathered around the poet, Alan Ginsburg.  They were chanting, trying to calm down the situation by filling the air with peaceful “Om”s.

I stood for a moment captured by the contrast between the group using their voices in anger and the one using their voices in prayer and peace.  At the time, I wasn’t sure which group I wanted to be a part of so I walked away.  

What I discovered about myself in that moment was that I didn’t believe that you could achieve peace through violent means but I wasn’t really ready to try to rise above it all either.  I wanted to do something I was passionate about and I  began to think that the power of words and music could create change, too.  Ok, maybe we can’t stop some maniac determined to kill people with a homemade IED, I don’t know. 

I do know that the power of the human spirit that comes through our voices can comfort, speak truth to power, bring joy, heal, and help us to endure difficult times. 

And in Boston we are tough.  We get up every morning and do our best – whether it’s making music or making lattes –  or running – in honor of the people who no longer can. 

Boston crime author Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone) wrote yesterday: What a Bostonian means when he or she says “You messed with the wrong city” is “You don’t think this changes anything, do you?

Trust me, we won’t be giving up any civil liberties to keep ourselves safe because of this. We won’t cancel next year’s marathon.  We won’t drive to New Hampshire to stockpile guns…what we’ll cling most to is what this city was built on – resilience, respect and an adoration for civility and intellect.

I’ll be thinking of that this week as I sing, work on my songwriting, coach my students, and hold close to the people I love .





  1. Donna Pentlaleri :

    This is beautifully written Celia.
    Your words: Resilience, respect and an adoration for civility and intellect— tell what makes Boston the wrong city and a very special place.

    Our music will heal and bind us to each other.
    As bob dylan said in the great Blood on the Tracks……..give us “shelter from the storm”
    We need that now


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