A beautiful day, high hopes, great expectations, happy excitement, a great day for Boston. The beloved Red Sox won their game. The Boston Marathon, the country’s oldest, is always held on Patriots Day, a holiday in Massachusetts. Boston had every reason to celebrate.
Then suddenly, without warning, joy turns to fear and pain and mourning. Those of us who watch the horrific scene on TV don’t suffer as much, of course, but we feel the pain and grieve and pray for the victims and their families.
As a New Yorker, when an announcer comments that the horrific scene in Boston is unbelievable, I know he’s getting carried away by the moment. How can our thoughts not return to September 11? How much more horrific can a scene be? The Boston Globe reports that there is blood everywhere.
We’ve seen so much blood and suffering since that day in 2001: pictures from Syria, Iraq, Sudan — the list is so long — the Newtown massacre, but we’re not inured to the horror. How often do we turn on the TV and not see broken bones, bloodstains and misery? These scenes, incredibly, have become commonplace.
We’ve had, it seems, one disaster after another. We barely begin to heal when we’re hit with another catastrophe. Yet, when it seems there is nothing left to gladden our devastated spirits, stories emerge of heroism and immediate helpful actions. People draw together in a community of need.
The Marathon runners were already a community, sharing emotion and experience and hope. Strangers run to the aid of nameless victims, because all the differences that divide our polarized society dissolve when individuals become a community with shared imperatives.
NBC reported that runners in Boston continued running over the finish line to Mass General Hospital to give their blood. Exhausted, shocked and aching, they gave of themselves in the most intimate way, sharing their lifeblood.
Only a few months ago, another form of disaster, Hurricane Sandy, killed the New York Marathon. Yet, disappointed runners from all over the world channeled their surplus energy into helping disaster victims instead. On the day they should have been fulfilling the dreams they’d been preparing for during the entire year and more, they went to Staten Island to the aid of Sandy’s victims. In the midst of so much suffering, seeing such selflessness helps put the day back into perspective.
Technology is a relatively new player. It helps in other ways. The people at Google released their Person Finder tool immediately to help loved ones find each other. Hot lines were immediately set up for calling in tips or getting information. We have come to depend on Twitter for the latest updates and information, pictures and people’s reactions, and it too helps people separated by disasters to find each other.
The nation’s attention is now focused on Boston. The unfortunate — no, tragic — reality is that tragedy and the community of feeling that bind strangers together are only fleeting moments; the only good that emerges from tragedy is too soon forgotten.