It’s another beautiful, sunny, crisp Spring day here on the East Coast, and there’s a calm in the air, the kind that comes after a storm. Things feel delicate, like the buds on the trees, and the Boston Marathon bombing is on everyone’s minds and lips. People are still in shock, New York and Washington are on red alert. When I stopped in the deli earlier, an older gentleman looked up from his paper and said, “Lotta sirens already this morning.” The guy behind the counter replied, “They watching now because of Boston.” “I know,” I said. “It sucks. Not that it’s not the right response, but it sucks that we’re all on lockdown now. When they terrorize one city, they terrorize all of us.”
A friend on Facebook alluded to the fact that today feels like September 12, 2001, which of course is an apt comparison. Except us New Yorkers now know how the rest of the country must have felt that day. When you experience terror in your hometown, the rubble is there for weeks or months or years to remind you of the boom of one instant. The wound stays fresh. You remain shell shocked. But now that the wound is in someone else’s town – a town so close yet so far – what do we do? How do we react? What do we say? How do we send love and support?
There is an urge most of us feel to try to lift up the entire city. To say, Boston, we’re with you. We understand. Because with this type of event – a terrorist bombing – the entire city, even parts far from the blast, is the target. The whole city is the victim. This kind of sneak attack is meant to disturb the psyche of an entire populous, the whole coast, even the country, vast as it is. Those bombs were meant to specifically make us aware that we are not immune, here in America, from atrocity on a grand scale. No matter how hard we double down on security while simultaneously, awkwardly trying to carry on and live freely in a culture of fear, there will be those who infiltrate our infrastructure in the name of intimidation.
But this event didn’t just happen to the soul of a town – it also happened in a very physical way to a select number of flesh and blood human beings. Several bystanders were personally traumatized by witnessing this event. Over 130 spectators and runners were wounded, many very severely. Three people were killed. One of them was an 8-year-old boy. His name was Martin Richard, a little kid from Dorchester, who had just a few seconds before his death hugged his father as he crossed the finish line. Martin’s father, Bill, survived, but his mother and 6-year-old sister were hurt very badly in the explosion. His sister lost a leg. It pains me to imagine what Bill, a community leader in Dorchester, must feel right now. His grief has got to be sickening, this experience so unspeakably sad.
And so what do we do to honor the little life of Martin Richard, a small boy who was bursting with so much pride for his father that he ran out onto the course to hug him at the end of the race? What do we say to those who lost their limbs in the explosion? How do we carry on when it’s sunny out and we have work to do but of course the world has been jolted, the puzzle pieces of our families shifted? How, what, why?
President Obama assured the nation that “We will find out who did this,” and I have no doubt that’s true. And though I understand why it’s important to find out who did this, what we really need to find out is why. Why? What have we done or failed to do that has driven someone to cut us in this way? Where is the system failing? And once we know why, we understand why, we must begin to make the massive, grand scale changes that need to be made to make the entire world a fairer, more just and safer place to live. There is no other point to this exercise we call life, and if we continue to turn a blind eye to that fact, it will be our doom.
I hate to sound so grandiose, so dramatic, but this is the truth as I understand it. Some might say it’s unwise perhaps to get even vaguely political in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, yet that’s exactly the rhetoric conservatives count on. They manipulate average people into thinking that it’s not okay to “turn a tragedy into an opportunity to talk policy,” that is until they tell you it’s time to go to war with a country that had nothing to do with the tragedy. (It’s a sick joke, but imagine some Republican using this as yet unclaimed bombing as an excuse to go to war with Iran or North Korea. You know some loose cannon out there is chomping at the bit.)
Just as the war mongers are always eager to use these events to thrust us further into conflict, I’m eager to see this event give us pause. Let’s pause, America. Let’s stop and quietly reflect on the life of Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy who was thrilled to be enjoying Patriot Day, one of Boston’s grandest traditions. Let’s stop and reflect on what it feels like to be enjoying a blissful day only to see it explode into turmoil. Let’s stop to think about what this means, why this happened. Let’s not just focus on the perpetrator(s) of this attack, though of course they must be identified and dealt with. Let’s continue in the contemplative vein spurred by all of the violence that has touched our nation in the last 12 years, both the kind brought down on us by external forces and the kind that has grown from within our citizenry. Let’s think about what it means to live in a world filled with bombs and guns and an excited urge to use them, then juxtapose that with most every human’s deep desire to be free to enjoy the peace of a Spring day, basking in the glory of friends and family and the thrill of a good race.
Let’s find a way to say, Boston, we’re with you. And by Boston mean the whole entire world. Let’s pause and grieve for Martin Richard and the other unnamed victims of this tragedy. We need to emotionally pause, but spiritually we need to keep running. Let’s not let this bury us in fear. Fear is the fuel of terror and revenge. What we need now, and always, is an outpouring of love.
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