I don’t know what I’m going to write here today; I just know that I need to write something – to get it out of my head – after the horror of yesterday.
Close to home
Like many people around the world, I stood glued to reports of the terrible bombings in Boston yesterday. I saw the early reports emerge on Twitter, and soon enough there was almost nothing else in my feeds. I went for a run after work, and kept thinking about the horrible scene in Massachusetts. I went home, and sat staring at the TV for hours, watching the reports come in. I spent half the night reading Reddit threads outlining the heroism of people on the scene.
Five years ago I ran the Boston Marathon. It was one of the happiest days of my life. The feeling of warmth, welcoming and acceptance from the start to the finish was something I haven’t witnessed anywhere else, and certainly not in any Toronto races. People lined the streets for the full 26.2 miles, handing out refreshments and encouragement to runners. My (now) wife met me at the top of Heartbreak Hill. It was a wonderful, wonderful day and the city and people of Boston will forever hold a place dear in my heart as a result.
Perhaps because of this, yesterday’s terror struck home a little too close for me. I was, and still am, surprised by how much it affected me. Perhaps it was because of the my experience in 2008; perhaps because so many people I know were on the course yesterday. It probably sounds silly, but it felt like an attack on a little piece of me.
Happily all of my friends were safe and unharmed. My heart goes out to the victims and families of those who were killed or injured.
Beyond the worry for the people involved and the anger at those responsible, I worry about what this means for future events. Will the Boston Marathon bounce back? What does this mean for future sporting events? It’s pretty much impossible to secure a 26-mile stretch of road; what does that mean for other races?
I also began to feel conflicted. Three people died and over 130 were injured. That’s horrible… but why was I feeling so affected by this and less by the hundreds of people killed in other incidents around the world every day? The shooting at Sandy Hook killed 26 people. Again, I was mortified about that but given that 8 times as many people died there, should I care 8 times as much about that? What if I didn’t – what does that say about me? Am I right to feel more affected by this? I don’t know.
The best and the worst
Yesterday brought out the best in our society. The number of heroes who ran towards the blasts to help people was astonishing and heart-warming. There are images – too graphic to show here (here’s a link – be warned) – of a guy literally holding someone’s artery to stop them bleeding out as they wheeled him to… I’m not sure where. A medical tent or an ambulance, I guess. Apparently the guy made it – given the extent of his injuries, that’s wonderful. Moments like that really show the good in our world.
Sadly, yesterday brought out some scary parts of our society too. I was happy to see that news outlets held back from labeling it a certain way until the authorities began to do so. Yet before long, I started to see the assumptions being thrown around. I saw a CBC interview with an FBI agent who said it was too early to say who was responsible but it could be Muslim extremists, or Al Qaeda. While saying we shouldn’t jump to conclusions, he re-raised that possibility twice more in the interview.
I posted a message of tolerance on Facebook; one commenter responded that “it is always the same religion that perpetrates these atrocities” – something that just isn’t true (think Oklahoma, or Atlanta, or even Sandy Hook).
A Muslim friend of mine – who I won’t name – told me yesterday that he has been called a terrorist twice in his life. The first time was in 2001; the second time was yesterday. That horrifies me.
I don’t know who did this. Maybe it was a religious group. Either way, it won’t change how I feel towards other people of that religion — regardless of which one it is — because I know the vast majority of people, regardless of religion, are kind, gentle and well-meaning.
I don’t know the answers to the questions I posed earlier. Perhaps I’ll have thoughts in the days ahead. I do know, however:
- I hope the people injured in yesterday’s attacks recover, and that no-one else loses their life.
- I hope the authorities catch the person or people responsible for this and that they are brought to justice.
- I hope that our society can refrain from allowing the people involved — Christian, Muslim, or any other religion; political or apolitical — to tar entire social groups or religions with the same brush. I hope we can recognize that the acts of a few don’t represent the beliefs of many.
- I hope we don’t let this put a chill on large public events. If the people responsible succeed in striking terror into our hearts and in making us reconsider these most positive of ways of coming together then they’ve won.
- I hope the Boston Marathon goes on. It’s a wonderful event that brings thousands of people together each year in a very, very positive way.