When Evil Brings Out the Best

I spent a good part of the late morning yesterday watching the Boston Marathon online.  I was particularly intrigued by the women’s race, and enjoyed watching the race unfold over the last six miles.  I was awed by the sheer speed that the lead groups – both men and women – were running.  It blew my mind to think that athletes can run five-minute miles for that distance.  I laughed at the commentators saying that a pace of 5:30/mile was “loping along”.

That awe, and likely any awe you might have had as well, flipped to shock and horror in the span of 12 seconds around 3pm when some coward purposefully hurt and killed innocent people for a reason that I will never, ever understand.

The local newspaper headline today read, “This is what we should expect when we’re at war.”  Certainly we are at war.  Most of us, though, don’t have to experience it played out so close to home.  War happens in the world, but it happens in places like Iraq or Afghanistan.  In Syria.  In Israel.  But not here.  Not in the United States.  It’s a foreign concept for most of us; and difficult for us to wrap our minds around.

My feelings today are mixed.  I’m certainly sad for those injured or killed.  I’m dismayed.  I fear for how my life would change were I involved in this tragedy.  I’m heartbroken for those who suffered traumatic injuries.  I read this morning of two brothers who each lost a leg in the blasts.  The senseless violence of this hurts.

I’m disgusted as well.  I’ve seen way too many pictures of blood.  Of injured people.  I’m angry at people who tweeted and retweeted images of the carnage.  I’m not sure why we need to see those images and what compelled people to send them out.

Confusion is another emotion I’m feeling today.  I suppose I understand why some people might not like actions and decisions that our government might make.  Without a doubt, our government has done (or not done) things that could be viewed as awful, antagonistic, lethargic or uncaring.  I suspect that literally every government in the world has done similar things.  Having a beef with a government is one thing.  Attacking innocent people is another issue, and one that I’ll never understand.

Perhaps the most overwhelming emotion I’ve had in the past 17 hours is awe.  I’ve been awed by the reactions and actions of so many in Boston.  Courage.  Kindness.  Giving.  Literally seconds after the blasts, first responders, bystanders and even athletes ran directly towards the carnage to render first aid.  Their first concern was helping others and not running and cowering for their safety.  I wonder had I been in that situation what I would have done.  Would I have run away?  Would I have dropped everything to help others?  I hope I’d have helped people, but I just don’t know.

I’ve read of athletes taking off shirts to create tourniquets.  Of local Bostonians offering up their apartments and homes to athletes who didn’t have a place to go.  Of athletes comforting one another on Boston Common.  Of people going out of their way to help others.  A big topic online today is solidarity.  Runners all over the globe are wearing blue and yellow.  They’re wearing race shirts.  There’s a huge sense of family and togetherness that has come from this tragic event.  And that is a great thing.  The human spirit is unstoppable.  It’s innate that we come together in community to love each other, to help, to share joy and to grieve.  Even despite the pain and suffering endured by so many, the fact that people have come together in such a wonderful way is overjoying.

That will be my lasting memory of this tragedy.