Photography © Shannon O’Connor


After the Marathon Bombing, at Starbucks

The day after the Marathon bombing in Boston, everything in the Back Bay was closed, and the closet Starbucks open was the one where I worked on Beacon Hill. Newscasters from all over the country and the world sat in our store, stressed, reporting about the bombing that happened at the Marathon, ordering coffee, and taking up the whole place.

The city was in a state of shock. Bombs had gone off at the finish line of the Marathon, and people were killed, and more injured. Nobody knew what had happened, or why. People wanted to understand how someone could do this to our city, to the Marathon, the celebratory event that crowded the city.

I had the day of the Marathon off from work. I was supposed to go to a poetry reading, with an erratic poet named Lee Letif, at an art gallery in Cambridge. But the reading was cancelled because of the bombing. The next day I had to go to work.

The person who ran the first Marathon in Ancient Greece dropped dead from the exertion of running twenty-six miles. If he had to work at Starbucks the day after the marathon bombing, he might not have survived that either.

Starbucks on Beacon Hill was one of the busiest in the city. We got business from all around, lots of tourists, and people walking in the park. But the day after the Marathon bombing, reporters and state troopers screamed into their cell phones while ordering their lattes, and my coworkers and I had to deal with the frantic mob of people trying to figure out what happened to our city.

“We have to keep on making more iced coffee,” the manager, Jim said. “I don’t think we’re getting a delivery today because trucks aren’t allowed through the Back Bay.”

“But we’ll need milk,” I said.

“We can get it from another store.”

I stood at the espresso bar, making latte after latte. It seemed like the people that came in wanted lattes. I thought if we ran out of milk, the customers would throw their own bomb at us.

“This is like our 9/11,” said my coworker, Melvin. “It’s our moment in the sun. The entire country is looking to us for guidance.”

“I hope they don’t look in this store, it’s a disaster,” I said.

“They’re looking to us to see how we handle it. Are we going to be cowards, and shirk from responsibility? Or will we be strong, and face the adversity head on?”

“Maybe you can face the adversity. If I didn’t have to be here, I wouldn’t.”

“But think,” he said. “This is our time to shine. Legends will be told about us.”

“Yeah, how we ran out of milk, couldn’t make any lattes, and the customers threw a revolt,” I said.

“You’re thinking small, you have to think on a grander scale.”

“Here’s a grander scale, will you refill my lids for me? And maybe check if we have mocha in the back?”

Young people can get philosophical. I was here to do my job.

Later in the evening, state troopers came in with huge guns slung around their shoulders.

“Those are AK47s,” Melvin whispered to me. “They only bring those out in dire times.”

A young boy in the café with his mother looked at the state trooper with awe.

“Are those real guns?” the boy asked the trooper.

“Yes, they’re real,” the trooper said. “You shouldn’t ask dumb questions like that. Someday it might get you in trouble.”

The little boy started to cry.

“Come on, Liam, let’s go.” His mother took him out of the store.

I wiped the counter, and put the steaming pitchers in a row.

Melvin mopped the floor behind the espresso bar.

“That little boy will never forget that lesson,” he said. “Never ask a man with an AK47 a dumb question.”

“Neither will I,” I said. “Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be curious.”

“People should mind their own business when it comes to an emergency,” Melvin said.

A hush fell over the city. I imagined the reporters who were in the store earlier had moved their business to bars to heal themselves with alcohol. Sometimes Starbucks could be boring, but days like these would make a good tale, told over coffee to people who enjoy legends of strength, survival and exuberance.


Shannon O’Connor holds an MFA in Writing and Literature from Bennington College. She has been published previously in ODDBALL, as well as 365 TOMORROWS, THE WILDERNESS HOUSE LITERARY REVIEW, and others. She lives in the Boston area and works in a hospital. She drinks a lot of coffee.