by Joe Thomas
I saw it first on Twitter, of course, America’s newest source for breaking news, accurate or not. “CNN cutting to coverage of Boston Marathon explosion.” 140 characters isn’t really enough space to capture the magnitude of what happened, but at that point no one had any idea, really.
I switched over to CNN from Netflix, where I had been watching “Scrubs” (I’m in the middle of watching every episode). The caption at the bottom said “6 injured in Boston Marathon explosions”. Over the next five hours, that number got higher, and higher, and higher. It reminded me of other news stories like this that I’ve watched, where without fanfare or acknowledgement the numbers clicked upward, in Sandy Hook and Blacksburg and New York City and Littleton and Baghdad and Kabul. I”ve seen these stories too many times over my 26 years on earth.
It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that athletes get their legs taken, artists get their hands taken, musicians lose their hearing, powerful speakers are ravaged by throat cancer, and graceful boxers are devestated by Parkinson’s. Some people have parts of them touched by God, blessed with abilities that others could only imagine. It’s not fair to watch that get taken away.
Sports can heal. Inevitably after these tragedies there is a discussion about what role sporting events can play in recovery and healing. Atlanta sports fans are intimately familiar with this. The Braves played the Mets in the first baseball game after the 9/11 attacks, and the Falcons played the Saints in the first football game after Hurricane Katrina. Ask the athletes that played in those games whether they could feel the difference they made. The wounded joy on the part of New Yorkers and Louisianans was evident to everyone on those nights.
Patton Oswalt is right. Good outnumbers evil, and always will. The examples of this over the last 24 hours are well documented. No matter how many people were responsible for the attacks, there were exponentially more people responsible for helping, supporting, loving, and caring for the victims. This will always be the case.
The things that bring Americans together are stronger than the things that tear us apart. Despite our differences, we are a people that wants to do right by each other, and that becomes evident in times of crisis.
In “Cry, the Beloved Country”, Alan Paton wrote “There’s only one way in which one can endure man’s inhumanity to man and that is to try to exemplify man’s humanity to man.” Through our many struggles, we know that to be true.
Strength is relative. Security experts on the news called the marathon finish line a “soft” target. That’s not what I saw. I saw unimaginable strength and resiliency. I saw people who finished running 26 miles keep running to help. I saw an ex-NFL offensive lineman carry injured victims. I saw a 78 year old man 15 feet from the finish line get knocked on his ass by a bomb, get up, and finish the race. That doesn’t sound like a soft target to me.
When the movie of this gets made, Tim Meadows will play Deval Patrick.
No one knows when or where or if this will happen again. If they tell you they do, they’re lying. Intrinsic in any kind of public crisis like the one we are experiencing is an inability to trust, a feeling that things outside of our control are becoming more and more dangerous. This is the definition of terror. We cannot allow those who would terrorize us to confine us to the dark corners of our own insecurity. We cannot be afraid to step out into the light day after day and trust that the majority of those around us are there to build us up, not tear us down.
I still don’t understand what it is that makes people want to run marathons, but I’m pretty sure now that it’s a positive quality and not a sign of insanity.
by Langston Hughes
Wave of sorrow,
Do not drown me now:
I see the island
Still ahead somehow.
I see the island
And its sands are fair:
Wave of sorrow,
Take me there.
If I know anything about people from Boston, it’s that they don’t take shit from people. Sometimes obnoxiously so. They’ll be okay.
It made me angry when the talking heads on the news were trying to decide whether the attacks were “terrorism, or something else”. When someone sets off bombs, its terrorism. There’s no difference who does it. When they said “is it terrorism or something else?”, I heard “did a Muslim place the bomb, or was it just a white person?”
I couldn’t help but think of the story of Pheidippides, the basis for the running of marathons. He died at the end of his run, at the finish line. His last words were “Joy to you, we won. Joy to you.”
I can’t believe there were people from Newtown there. Will they ever be able to feel safe?
Wolf Blitzer said “small package” and I laughed. Take that, terrorists!
I’m proud of people’s reactions on social media. For the most part, all of the messages I saw were ones of support and love and hope and thought. People run down the internet community a lot, and I’m sure there was some nasty stuff flying around out there, but overall it was very positive.
This has been widely shared, but I love it so much I want to share it again: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers
When we find and prosecute the people who planted the bombs, we must remember to keep our civility. If we let revenge cloud our judgement, then even in defeat the terrorists will find victory.
Quick thought yesterday afternoon: We sure could use the Boondock Saints right about now. Can we get Norman Reedus to chill out on the zombie hunting for a minute?
Today as I walked around my college campus, everyone seemed more aware of each other. It may not be conscious, but when things like this happen I like to think that our brains force us to be more cognizant of the people around us. In the library, a young man slumped at his computer with his head in his arms. It may have just been stress, who knows. Two people stopped to ask him if he was okay. It was heartening.
This morning I read about a couple of Boston College students who have organized a walk to the finish line for those who weren’t able to finish the race. So far over 15,000 people have RSVP’d.
In America, we search for heroes. Sometimes I think we do so too quickly; we hold up people as examples when they are hurting and I feel bad. But the truth is that we search for heroes because even in times of sadness we look for signs of joy. That is why we will always persevere.
Our common sorrow makes our bonds stronger, the darkness engulfing us now will give way to a brighter light in the end.