Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thoughts on the Boston Marathon

What started out as a fun day with my son cheering on famous runners, friends, and complete strangers turned quickly into a stomach churning afternoon when the news of the reprehensible carnage came in. Like a lot of people, I got caught up in the fear and terror and spent a night distracted by news reports and rumor mongering. But after a few days of sleep and reflection, I choose to reject the fear sowed by these cowardly terrorists and instead focus on the strength of my great nation and people of my adopted hometown. When I'm healthy again, I will continue to run races without fear. And i'll be down at the marathon again in 2014, supporting it in every way I can.

Many people with more talented pens than I wrote much better reactions than I could ever hope to do. Here are some of the best.

Patton Oswalt:
“I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. … This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago,”
Heather Hurlburt , on combating terrorism like being a marathon
We don't know who planted those explosive devices, but, as former West Point academic Brian Fishman reminds us, we know what those who resort to terror's indiscriminate violence want:
Terrorists kill for two basic reasons: They want to disrupt and destroy institutions or symbols of a political order they despise and they want to intimidate people not touched by the attack directly. 
... My fellow Americans, our hearts are broken, but the state of our union is strong. Maybe stronger than it was yesterday, before we saw those pictures of our fellow-citizens running from the race to the fallen.
So what about sowing fear and division among the rest of us, terrorists' other goal?
Americans of every political stripe have been calling out speculation and scapegoating as fast as it happens. Bostonians of every faith and race have come together to mourn their losses and celebrate their heroes. Maybe the attacker or attackers, whomever they are, didn't know Boston's difficult history of race and religious relations, maybe they did – but for those of us who do, this unity is especially beautiful to see.
That's pretty good for mile one. But we have so many hard miles ahead. Not turning on each other, or our institutions, or our own freedoms, whatever the truth behind these terrible attacks proves to be… can we keep it up?
And finally, my friend Norb, writing on Facebook. He watches the race from the other side of Route 135 than I do:

For those of you who don't know, I live a short walk from the mile 4 water stop on the Boston Marathon route in Ashland, MA. In the years I don't have to work, I take in the race with my kids. It's always quite amazing to stand on the hill there and watch a wall of people running towards us.
But then the fun begins. We pick out people to shout encouragement to. Maybe they have their name on their shirt. Maybe they're wearing their country's flag. Maybe they're just wearing pink sneakers. If we can find a way to address you, we will shout our encouragement at you as you run past.
And that will continue from mile 4 (and earlier), all the way to the end of the race. People you have never seen before, and will probably never see again, shouting heartfelt - and often hilarious - encouragement to those souls crazy enough to run 26.2 miles through our home towns.
It's one of those things that makes Boston Boston. It's why I love living here, and would never consider moving anywhere else. And no act of terror is going to change that.
Therefore, while I grieve for those people killed and injured today, I will say this to all you runners: I'll see you next year. And the year after that. And the year after that, too. Because for every "real" athlete out there running the race, there are five running it because they lost someone to cancer, or want their schools to have better technology, or any of a thousand other noble causes that drive people to test themselves against the Boston Marathon.
So, next year I will stand on the hill up by Ashland High School and watch that wave of crazy people washing down Union Street. And, while my smile may be a little sad, it will still be a smile. And then I'll go down and shout myself horse at the crazy people, helping them stay crazy enough to keep running for another 22.2 miles.
Because we're Boston. It's what we do.

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