Anytime there is a senseless tragedy like this it's hard, but when it happens to a place that you have called home it hits even harder. I know there has been lots of talk on the news now about Patriot's Day and it's meaning to the city, but unless you have been there it's really hard to imagine. The town in many ways literally shuts down for the day. Many businesses are closed, and even those that are open have less staffing because many people have taken the day off either for the things that are going on or because it's the first day of spring break and so they are off to be with their kids.
In addition because there is basically 28 miles of roadway shut down it's much harder to get around town, and the crowds who are there for the marathon make mass transit even busier than normal. We lived in two places close to the route. One was three blocks away and was about the 24 mile marker. The second was right on the route, as in I could walk out the front door and watch people run by, and it was the half way mark.
People are lined up along this route in huge numbers. Even at the halfway mark, people could be 3-4 deep on the sidewalk, and they are there for no other reason than to cheer on the runners. Sometimes they know someone who's racing, and it's really hard not to know at least one person who's running, but most of the time it's just to cheer on everyone who is there. Just thinking about it now sort of brings me chills, because it's something the entire city sort of takes pride in and ownership of. On Marathon Monday many people just know that this is what they are going to be doing. So for this to happen sort of tears at the heart of the city.
When my father called me yesterday to talk about it, the first thing he said was "did you ever go to the finish line to watch it?" My response was that I never did because it was way too crowded. As I said people are 3-4 deep much earlier in the race, and the finish line it's just crazy packed. And it is that fact which makes the casualty numbers such a miracle. The fact that there are only 3 dead and 140 or so wounded, as terrible and tragic as it is, is simply a miracle, because it could have so much worse.
If there is a best case scenario for the worst case scenario, which this bombing is, it is that it occurred where it did. There were doctors and nurses stationed at the finish line who immediately ran to help, there is a large police presence who ran to help, and they have ambulances lined up as well. Just watch the video and you can see the first responders do what they are trained to do, and do it so well, and you know many lives were saved right there.
And if that is not enough, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital are all almost literally around the corner from there. These are not just some of the best hospitals in the commonwealth or even in the country, these are rated as some of the best hospitals in the world.
If these bombs had happened to go off in Wellesley where I lived, they might not have hit as many people, but almost assuredly the death rate would have been higher because the victims would not have been treated as quickly as they were. It would have taken awhile to not only reach them, but to get them to the hospital, and to do so they would have had to have avoided the easiest route because it would have been flooded with runners making entry and egress even more difficult.
But what we also need to understand is that this is not Boston's event, this is the world's event. Rev. Steve Garnass-Holmes, a former colleague of mine from Boston, said yesterday that all we have to do as look at all the flags representing the nations that had runners that had to be moved out of the way to get to the victims and we know that this is not Boston, MA, or Boston, USA, this is Boston, World.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families, to the witnesses, to the first responders and the race volunteers who responded so valiantly in a time a crisis, and to all the runners, those who crossed the line and those who couldn't. Boston will recover and go on, just as they did after losing so many in 9/11 (both towns in which I served had memorials to citizens they had lost in planes that day) and undoubtedly there will be other senseless attacks that will follow this.
But as the Boston University School of Theology is saying, may we run to peace rather than to violence and revenge. May we not start judging and attacking those we think might be responsible, but instead let the investigators do their work, and then when the perpetrator or perpetrators are caught let us not make blanket statements and judgements about everyone else who is like them. The good always outnumber the bad, and so it is up to us to be the ones who bring light into the darkness.
Every year our church in Wellesley would hang out a banner for the marathon quoting from Isaiah 40:
"those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint."May it be so.