By KOLBY PAXTON
I found out about the bombing at the Boston Marathon the way I find out about everything anymore: Twitter. Killing time, scrolling up my timeline, clicking links that I deemed to be potentially funny, interesting or thought-provoking; just another average, run of the mill, unproductive Monday afternoon.
The news wasn’t really delivered as such. It was a question from the friend of a friend: “Uh, did the Boston Marathon just get bombed?”
It didn’t even push me back in my seat, to be honest. I figured it was meant as a joke, a satirical attempt at garnering a few retweets. Something happened with the course or with a few of the runners, something insignificant. He saw it. I didn’t. He made a funny. I didn’t get it.
I was unspeakably incorrect in my assumption.
They say the bombs were remarkably crude, nothing more than shrapnel – nails, pellets and metal – packed tightly inside of pressure cookers, hidden within duffel bags. As for a motive? Who the hell knows. The act, itself, is remarkably similar to the bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, one supposedly fueled by trigger man with an anti-gay, pro-life agenda.
How, exactly, murdering two people and injuring an additional hundred is in any way indicative of an individual overly concerned with the value of life is unclear. But, that’s kind of the point, here.
My initial reaction, upon finally accepting that these images I was seeing were real, was one of utter disgust in humanity as a whole. Where are we as human beings when you cannot even allow your children to watch you run a race without jeopardizing their lives? How sick are we that we can’t even celebrate Patriots’ Day in Boston without fear and mayhem ruling the day?
How screwed up are we? We.
Then I watched the video again. And again. And suddenly, something stood out to me, something other than the explosion and the terror. A sea of yellow jackets – Boston police and event staffers – ran toward the explosions. Without regard for their own safety, brave men and women immediately raced to the aid of the fallen, knowing not what was waiting to greet them. Who runs into the smoke of an explosion?
Hours later, reports began to surface of race participants crossing the finish line and continuing on to Mass General to donate blood. Who has the presence of mind, on the tail end of a 26 mile run, to sprint 1.4 miles beyond the carnage to give their blood to replace that which soaks the streets?
Similarly, doctors and nurses running in the marathon, people like Dr. Natalie Stavas, a pediatric resident at Boston Children’s Hospital, rushed to Copley Square to care for the victims. Who has the wherewithal, the energy, and the desire to think of anyone other than themselves four hours after beginning a marathon seven towns over?
The motive of the bomber, no matter how elementary or fantastical, hateful or misguided, will never be relevant. The bomber, his or herself, will never be more than a tragic outlier, imbalanced chemicals, crossed wires; anything but a sampling of Western civilization – let alone the country that we, as Americans, call home. We are not defined by terrorists, foreign or domestic, nor are we defined by their actions. It is in how we respond to being attacked, to being unfairly flooded with tragedy and adversity – how we always respond – that truly exemplifies who we are.
As was the case in Oklahoma City, Atlanta and New York, this was not an attack on a group of individuals, a city, or an activity. It was an attack on the psyche of those of us who call the home of the brave our own – not necessarily in the mind of the assailants, but always in the minds of the rest of us. Boston responded just the way that any American city would have, and it will recover – likely with a little extra gusto and authenticity, because it’s freakin’ Boston. The rest of the country will support its fallen comrades because it’s the freakin’ United States of America.
It’s easy to forget about the “United” part these days, what with such social and political division being displayed on our televisions. Yet, it is the very moments when our faith in humanity is tried, that it is ultimately restored. We are not so different from one another. We are not void of compassion for our neighbors, nor abundant valor in times of great need.
I cannot articulate the overwhelming sorrow that I feel for those affected by the blast, for the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters whose lives will never be the same. I’m not even sure those words exist.
Instead, all we’re left with is faith and prayer; prayer for their comfort, and prayer that the good, “Boston strong” as we are, always outnumber evil.