Most people who know me know that I almost always have something to say about nearly everything. However, when something like what happened at Boston occurs I am unusually quiet. I mean really, what can one say that makes any difference?
We are all shocked and sorry. We all feel devastated for the losses. Most of us have shed tears for the victims that we did not know but who could have been our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and friends. We feel anger. We feel gratitude and pride for the actions of all those who were involved in aiding the victims.
After thinking about this for a while, the thing that stands out for me about this is how personal this attack was. I had several friends at Boston. I spent the hour after the explosions glued to my computer and my cell phone trying to find out if my friends were safe. Where was Kate, her husband Mark? What about Geoff? Dr. Tom and Hannah? What about my friends Paula and Matt, from over on the other end of the state? I was most concerned about my friend Lynne. I knew from tracking him all morning that his finish time was just a few minutes before the blasts. Were he and his wife still milling around the finish area?
Besides concern, the other thought that was going through my mind is “I can’t believe I am sitting here trying to be sure that none of my friends have been affected by a bombing – a terrorist attack!!???” It was unbelievable.
Social media again came through for us in a key time. Reports were popping up on Facebook by the minute. Soon my other running groups started reporting in, everyone rushing to share any information they had and to help others who were worried about friends.
I am sure this same scene was played out in running groups in every community in the country. This was a key difference between the Boston tragedy and 9/11. With 9/11, I felt attacked as a country. My heart went out to the people of New York, but I did not know anyone who had been personally affected. I felt devastated and I cried, but honestly it was somewhat remote. As graphic as the images were on the television and as deeply moving, it was not something that touched me personally in the same way that this incident did. I now understand what those people were feeling at much more personal level.
I think that is a key difference that many people are feeling. There is hardly a city or town in this country that did not have at least one person from the area who was running Boston. This horrific act on the streets of Boston reached out and touched communities all over our country in very personal ways. Suddenly the realities of the world we live in today were brought straight to the forefront. It could be any of us that are the victims, at any activity. I guess this is what is supposed to put the “terror” in terrorism. However, I don’t find my reaction being terror. I find it being anger and disappointment.
The attack also targeted a “community” that was already highly cohesive and supportive. One of the benefits of being a runner is being part of the “running community.” This is often meant on a local level, but anyone who has run for a while is aware of the greater community. I can go anywhere in the country, find the group of local runners, and know I will be welcomed. I can go to a race by myself in a strange city and know I will find hundreds of other people I can relate to. I was proud of the actions of my community in the aftermath: runners running straight to the hospital to give blood, local Boston runners offering their home and aid to out-of-town runners who may be stranded or need help in the aftermath, and the myriad ways that runners have devised to show their support for the victims since. Besides the anger and disappointment, I also have feelings of pride and gratitude to be part of such a great group of people.
This weekend I will be running the Lansing Half Marathon. We have already received an email from the race director assuring us that security is a priority. Several of my friends have volunteered as course marshalls to help make sure that the runners and spectators will be safe. Will the Boston tragedy be on our minds? Of course it will. Our reaction as a community will not be fear. It will be solidarity and a refusal to allow a few evil people to change what is good and beautiful about our country and our sport.