Earlier today, I was driving down the road with my daughter. The car in front of me had a bumper sticker on the back. It displayed a picture of the young man and listed him as a corporal in the United States Marine Corps. He passed away two years ago and I suspect that he was killed in the line of duty. I wondered how that mother was able to move on with her life. She seemed completely normal as she was sitting in front of me at the stoplight. Her hair was fixed, her sunglasses were on and she was bobbing her head as though she were listening to music in the car. How can you engage in such simple activities after losing a child? I can’t even begin to fathom what that must be like, or the strength that it must take to just be able to get out of bed in the morning and wash your hair.
On the heels of seeing this very heart wrenching display of both love and grief, I returned from running my errands to learn that one of the three people killed in the Boston Marathon today was an eight-year-old boy. The question hit me again. How does a parent go on after losing their child? That’s not how this is supposed to work. Whether they are taken in war, or in tragedy, the end result is the same and the grief must be incredible. I don’t know how they will carry on, but I do pray that God gives them the strength to do it.
Prior to this knowledge, I watched the tragedy unfold on national TV and on Facebook and Twitter. I was immediately taken back to those moments early in the morning, for those of us on the West Coast, on September 11th, 2001. It felt like I was watching the towers collapse all over again. We all lost something that day. Our nation has been forever changed by the events of 9/11. It will be no different after the Boston Marathon Bombings.
The news then replayed the video of the bombs going off at the finish line of the marathon. My heart couldn’t take it. I watched it about halfway through, then asked my daughter to turn off the TV. I couldn’t do it anymore. The Boston Marathon is a time of celebration for the city, it’s a day when people take off work and take off school and go downtown to watch family, friends and strangers reach a wonderful goal, for some of them, it’s a lifelong dream. This is supposed to be a time of triumph and joy and out there in the world, some sick and twisted son of a bitch decided that this would be the moment that he would choose to make a statement.
It sickened me to hear that the moment he chose, smack in the middle of the marathon, was the moment when the most runners who were going to cross the finish line were about to reach it or in the process of crossing it. This was the moment when families who were running with their kids would be coming right through the area. When Joe, the running addict you know from down the street, was crossing the finish line. This was also the moment when the least number of international competitors would cross. Their aim was to kill Americans.
For the whole of my life, I felt safe, knowing that there had never been a foreign attack on US soil and then, 9/11 changed that and I felt very unsafe for a while. My feeling of safety returned with our nation’s strong response to those attacks. Whether you agree with the politics behind that response is irrelevant, they served the purpose of making Americans feel safe again because we knew that our government and our military was going to do what it had to, to protect its people.
Now, nearly 12 years after the fact, I feel unsafe again. I watched my local news interviewing the sheriff’s department, because we have a big race coming up in our city in three weeks. We are being assured that every precaution has been, and will be, taken to guarantee the safety of the runners and the spectators. Part of me thought the whole thing was silly. Why would terrorists choose to attack here?
Then it hits me.
Why wouldn’t they? The point is to strike a target that hits home with the American people. The point is to spread fear. That’s what terrorists do. Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, this is a horrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the people of Boston. I pray that they know, that because we are Americans and we are the sort of people that pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get on with our lives, terrorism cannot win, but I imagine that fails to provide even a small comfort to the family of that eight year old boy.
Tonight, I am thankful that I get to sit here and listen to my dog as he barks outside, begging to be let in. Tonight, I’m safe. My children are safe. Many people in Boston are not as lucky as I am and I am very aware of that and can only pray that they will feel this way again someday.
One thing that I saw today, that makes me proud of being an American, was the outpouring of good will from every corner of the country. I saw celebrities posting information on Twitter, trying to get it out there to as many of their followers as they could. They posted links to services that were allowing people to track down missing family members and loved ones who were participating in the marathon. They posted tip line and victim numbers and sent words of hope and prayer. They did tremendous good today and for hours and hours afterwards, everyone I follow on Twitter and Facebook shared the same message across the board.
Whatever the words were, however it was said, the message was simple: “Boston, we are with you.”
And we are.