Just over twenty-four hours after the tragedy of the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the nature of the coverage and dialogue is beginning to take shape. First and foremost is the inevitable “Why?” question. From friends, family, runners, supporters, observers, the city of Boston and the nation. The answer to that question will provide, for some, a context with which to attempt to process the senseless nature of the event. However, it does not change it, and it will not make it better or easier for those with direct connection to individuals who were present during the bombings.
The search for answers is obviously vital. To find those responsible and ensure that punishment to the fullest extent of the law is enacted. Finding the culprits is one of ways of proclaiming to those who might consider similar action that they will not succeed and they will not escape. As the myriad of acronym local and federal organizations set the best and brightest in the nation to uncovering the plot and those behind it, I find myself considering the other way we as a nation, in support of Boston and the runners and families and friends, can do our part to deter others with similar plans and agendas.
The media often sets the tone for our response in times of true crisis. There is much discussion about how much we do not yet know. There is a new theme of relating this kind of crude explosion to the atmosphere of fear that exists pervasively in the middle east where such events are common. The question the media asks is are we moving in that direction?
I believe that is truly up to us. All of us. Living in fear is a choice. The Boston Marathon was one of the worst places they could have chosen to attempt to create an environment of fear in our country. Why? Because of what it represents. The Boston Marathon is one of the premiere individual physical challenges in our country. It is a mammoth endeavor which takes an enormous amount of preparation and motivation to even consider participating in. And yet, some 27,000 people take up the extreme challenge to run 26.2 miles in front of a crowd that tops 500,000 along the route. The kind of people who run in the Boston Marathon and the workers, cheerleaders, supporters, friends and families of these people represent a triumph of the human spirit and what it can achieve.
I truly believe those behind this attack picked the wrong people to mess with. I in no way mean to diminish the unimaginable loss for the friends and family of those who died, those who are still in critical condition and those who have sustained injuries that will have to be dealt with for the rest of their lives. They deserve and undoubtedly need the love and support that is flowing in to them from all over the world. I’m also not asking anyone to set aside the anger and rage caused by the event. Each person, both intimately involved and far-removed from the bombings, has the right to react, examine and grieve as they choose.
What I am saying is that we also get to choose how we react as a culture and a nation. As the eyes of the world focus on how we handle this tragedy, we have the opportunity to once again show the world and those who oppose the freedoms we fight so hard to maintain and represent what it means to be an American.
While we allow those whose job it is to find the “who” and the “why” the rest of us are best served by finding the heroes. By celebrating, yes – celebrating, the overwhelming number of people who acted and reacted, not out of fear, but out of a sense of community in the moments and hours following the explosions. In this manner we can fight the fear that any attack like this is designed to instill in a community and our nation.
There are already more examples of heroism and love and support than I can list here. The rapid response of the police on sight, the first responders, the video of those running toward the explosions to provide assistance, the Bostonians who opened their homes to strangers, the professor who has committed to running next year though he hates running, the sign at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and many, many more. You can see how beautiful the variety is here.
These are the stories we can tell, and should be telling, as we wait for genuine information and facts. This is the choice we have following such a tragedy. An environment of fear will only set it in if we allow it. I believe by choosing this event, and these people, and the city of Boston – those behind the bombings made a mistake.
As we as a culture and nation write the narrative of this story, let us prove to them how truly huge a mistake it was. Let us continue to find and tell the stories of the injured and the fallen, I do not use the word “victim” because, though they are, they are so much more. Let us focus on the heroes and the triumph of the human spirit that is the foundation of the Boston Marathon in the first place. Let us gather and grieve with those who have lost, let us find those responsible and hold them accountable, let us continue to lift up Boston and its people, and let us celebrate the heroic acts both small and large, from the police and the citizens, from Boston and across the nation that demonstrate that we refuse to be intimidated and we will not be afraid.