On April 15th, 2013, twenty-six thousand people lined up at the starting line for the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. These people were runners who worked their asses off to train for one of the oldest and most celebrated races to occur each year. A race held in one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the world, and my home town. All around them, hundreds of thousands of supporters lined the streets from Hopkinton to Boston. On April 15th, 2013, these runners and their amazing Boston-bred supporters showed the entire world just how incredible the human race is.
You’re probably expecting to see hundreds entries pop up all over the blogosphere about this awful tragedy. Many writers will seek solace in putting words to paper on this day. Everyone is sad. Shocked. Angry. Hurting. But, at least for me, there is an underlining emotion behind all of the negative ones: pride.
If you love movies like I do, you’ve seen a thousand tragedies happen on screen. You’ve seen it all. Bombs blowing up in buildings, cars, on airplanes, you’ve seen depictions of war, destruction, distopia. You’ve seen giant alien monsters crush entire cities and bullets pierce hundreds of brave main characters and evil bad guys. In the movies, where the one or two bravest and best fictional heroes fight evil to its doom every time, the hundreds of innocent nameless people caught in the mix are always running fast and far away from the danger.
What I saw yesterday afternoon when I turned on my television was a scene right out of a horror film. Giant explosions of fire and smoke, people screaming, glass shards blowing. Nothing could prepare me or anyone else watching for that reality, and my brain wanted to remain convinced that it was all fake.
But, very much unlike anything I’ve ever seen on a movie screen, everybody close to the explosion was running into the danger, not away from it. It was one of the most incredibly unexpected things I have ever seen. Runners, spectators, officials…all of the innocent nameless people. They were running toward the fire, the smoke, toward the people who were hurt by the blast. They didn’t know if there were going to be more explosions, and they didn’t care. They pulled down fences, they ripped off their own shirts to use for rags, they came in droves to help wherever they could. They weren’t asked. They didn’t even think about it. On my television screen I saw dozens of nameless innocent people becoming heroes, right before my very eyes.
What a sight. I just couldn’t ignore the incredible goodness amidst the badness.
Many people will recall this event as an awful tragedy, a terrorist act, a bloody date in history. And it is all of those things. But perhaps even more importantly, this event is an opportunity. That’s right. It’s an opportunity for each one of us watching that dreadful horror movie to remember the enormous amount of good that exists in all of us. And the courage. With all that’s going on in the world of politics and international affairs, it can be easy to lose your faith in the altruistic nature of the human race. Yes, one or more – but few – individuals are responsible for creating this evil. But their numbers are infinitesimal, as compared to the many, the droves of the benevolent.
Events such as the tragedy at the Boston Marathon ask us…no, beg us to unite in recognition of the greatness that we are, and the greatness that we can be for one another. On April 15th, 2013, there were no Democrats, no Republicans, no minorities, no gays, no Muslims, no gun-supporters, no pro-lifers, no politicians…just a lot of great people. A lot of heroes.
You make me proud, Boston.