In light of the recent attacks at the Boston Marathon, I feel the need to share my feelings as both an American and as a member of the human race. I got the news about the bombings shortly after it was first reported. As soon as I saw the email notification labeled “Breaking News,” my heart skipped a beat. After reading the headline, I was overcome with a familiar feeling. It’s a feeling that still is difficult to describe. Not illness, not necessarily fear, but definitely not peace. It’s as if my body could feel the worry and anxiety of impending danger. I remembered this feeling instantly, there had only been two other times that I had felt it.
The last time I had a similar gut reaction was when I learned of the Americans killed at an embassy in Libya. But the most potent, was on September 11th 2001. Upon reflecting on this emotion, I once again felt the stirring within when I heard about Boston. The feeling was not anger, but terror. The initial response put me in “fight or flight” mode. I was torn between going home early and staying inside with my family or angrily seeking vengeance for the act of deliberate violence. But as the night went on, several things happened that caused me to change my perception and get a broader view. First, I tried to answer the obvious questions, who, what, where, and why?
I only spent a short time on the first two. Who? We don’t know yet. What? A premeditated attack. But the bulk of my thoughts were lead to the “Where” and “Why.”
Where? The Boston Marathon at the finish line. The Boston Marathon is no regular event. It is one of the most popular and traditional races in the sport (at least from what I understand). People who qualify to run in it are generally not amateurs. They train hard just to qualify and run it. The whole city shuts down and takes pride in this international event. The finish line is the focus not only because of the publicity, but because of the cathartic feeling that racers, and those who spend time supporting them feel when crossing the finish line. This is where goals are accomplished and trials are conquered. The finish line is where the accomplished feeling of running the race reaches it’s climax. It’s no surprise that those interested in causing fear and panic would attack such a special place.
Why? We can assume that the culprits had one objective: to illicit fear and terror. The idea of an explosion at a very crowded venue is enough to do that, but this attack went deeper. It was done on Patriot Day, a day dedicated to showing pride in our nation. It also targeted a special group of people. Marathoners are a resilient crowd, they’re sport revolves around persistence and toughness. Most marathoners that I have known are people who have endured extremely hard challenges in life. For many, running was a way to conquer those obstacles and is therapeutic. Looking at marathon culture from outside, I see hope and inspiration.
That’s when it hit me. I thought, “These people are trying to attack us where it’s a cheap shot. They terrorized a place designed to inspire.” But they did not succeed.
As news came in about the emergency response, my earlier feelings of fear were dispelled by overwhelming hope. The emergency professionals did an amazing job using the infrastructure available. Law enforcement officials were able to find, and neutralize other bombs. News and media groups responded with current updates and calls of solemnity. But it didn’t stop there. Racers were apparently crossing the finish line of the now cancelled race and running straight to volunteering areas to help, many even donated blood after racing. People everywhere shared the news and kept the victims in their hearts and prayers. These examples of bravery and selflessness were what restored my feelings of peace and hope once again. Learn more about some of the heroic efforts and what you can do to help, restore hope and support the cause.
Now my final question, and perhaps the most important one: “What now?” How will we react to this? Will we immediately point fingers and use it to fuel our anger? Will we degrade it to some political talking point? Will we grow numb and forget? My hope is that we will use this as an opportunity to be better. To run faster, work harder and love more. Let’s negate terror with hope. Let’s remove perceived differences and see the humanity in everyone. Do something today to promote the cause.
“Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light can do that.”