The following is student Samantha DeRosa’s account of how she and fellow students responded to the Boston Marathon bombings.
I remember waking up and seeing how beautiful the weather was and getting ready to go celebrate it all. I was watching the marathon on my friend’s rooftop when we heard these two loud explosions—maybe 10 seconds a part. We saw smoke and thought nothing of it. I thought to myself, “Oh cool, They added cannons to celebrate the finish line this year.” But then all of the Berklee students on the rooftop started turning to social media, and the reports started flooding in faster than I ever would have imagine. We were reading that a bomb had gone off, that it was a terrorist attack, that a building blew up, etc. Most of these were fallacies, but they all related to bombing. Instantly, we all went into panic mode and tried to call our parents. Cell phone reception had completely shut off and so we all left to try to head toward a safer place. The amount of police officers riding toward Boylston street was unreal. They were on bicycles, motorcycles, in cars, in trucks, and some were just running.
When we all heard what had actually happened, and saw the scenes on TV and in photos, I think we all kind of mentally vanished for a few minutes. Boston is our home 10 months out of the year. For some people and some students, it is home all year round. Nothing is worse than feeling unsafe at home. I just wanted to run away to New York, where my parents are, and escape Boston for a while. Every thought in my head led to “go home to New York, Sam,” but I just couldn’t find the drive to do it. I felt like I owed something to Boston. I felt like my loyalty was to Boston and that I had to stay here and help in any way that I could.
After the first 30 hours or so, students and civilians began to walk the streets again. Some did it out of curiosity, some for peace of mind, and most did for sanity. We just needed to get out of our apartments. It was at that moment that I saw the multitude of soldiers, police officers, security guards, agents, etc. that were flooding the streets of Boston. Some were standing in the same place for hours and others were patrolling the streets. I couldn’t think of what I had to do, but I knew I wanted to help them
I posted a Facebook event group on Wednesday night titled, “Berklee Gives Back: TOMORROW!” The event went up around 5:00 p.m./6:00 p.m. and by 10:00 p.m. I had 30-40 students signed up to help me. My friend Nikole Luebbe, president of the Student Government (SGA) at Berklee, had suggested writing thank you cards to all of the soldiers. I thought it was a great idea and was definitely interested in helping. But before she had contacted me, I was already planning my own things. I know that Berklee is the number one contemporary music school in the country. People know us for our talent—so why not use our gifts to give back in a time of crisis?
I also knew that students felt helpless and really wanted to do something to help. So I organized this event and arranged “buskers,” also known as street performers to perform around the tragic areas. We were close enough to provide positive music so that people wouldn’t feel too sad when they approached the site to take photos, but were far enough away to not cause any trouble or get in the way of the ongoing investigation.
I also asked people to donate water bottles, food, snacks, etc. The officers and soldiers needed nourishment and lunch. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if they would get breaks or not. So we made a bunch of posters, posted them all over the Berklee/Boston area, and we walked around for three hours on Thursday and delivered the goods/water to every officer we saw. Some extra eventually went to the homeless on Newbury and Mass Ave.
All of the buskers raised funds and we raised over $200 for the victims’ families. We also fed water and food to well over 50 soldiers, police officers, and security guards. I felt like that night, I fell asleep a lot faster. I had a seriously peaceful feeling swimming around me that night. I knew that my uneasy feelings were a result of wanting to help. Once I helped, I truly felt better. I wish I could do more. I wish I could have been there to save young Martin, or to grab that backpack and throw it far from harm’s way. But I guess that is the mystery of life, and life moves quickly.
I just pray for those families and for the lives lost. It still makes me sad, but I also feel better knowing that Berklee gave back. I hope they find peace and I hope justice is served.