“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them humanity cannot survive.”
The horrific and stupefying incident that occurred at the Boston Marathon is on my mind, as it must be on yours. And, from a personal point of view, it happened exactly one year after I was in a car accident in which my eye site was permanently affected and I sustained some pretty serious head trauma. Now I know that my car accident isn’t the same as withstanding a terrorist attack or having a leg amputated by flying shrapnel. But, the two incidents do have some commonalities. Both remind us that life can change in an instant. And both cause us to ask ourselves, “How can we process this horrendous occurrence and yet move forward?” “How can such evil exist in our world, and yet we find kindness in those around us?” I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know that keeping some optimism even in the face of incalculable terror and hurt beats living with a permanent sense of cynicism that colors our life views and prevents us from looking forward.
“The psychic brutality of such events, whether an elementary school shooting or a bombing at the finish line of a marathon on a glorious spring day, is singularly too much. Cumulatively, they have a killing effect on the human soul. We can say all the right things and hug our children more tightly. We can make pronouncements and promises. But the deep, mortal wound of man’s inhumanity to man continues to be unfathomable. The challenge isn’t only to prevent the next act of terror. It is to avoid becoming accustomed to the horror.”
Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post, April 17, 2013
We live in a world of great ambiguity. There is blood staining the streets, yet we have to keep looking for the beauty. We have survivors’ guilt, but we can’t be paralyzed. We have huge questions or “who”, “what” and “why”, and we have to move forward without certainty or answers. Patriot’s Day is defiled, yet we continue to believe that we live in the greatest country on Earth.
This may be one of the most difficult articles I’ve ever written to you, and tears come to my eyes as I think of how a glorious spring day and celebration of success ended with such drama and hurt. Those runners trained for months and years. Their accomplishments have been overlooked. Some were necessarily diverted from the marathon track and never got to finish. That little boy Kevin was standing there just to give his father a kiss for his success in finishing and now he’s dead, his sister has lost a leg and his mother has serious brain damage. As I said, in an instant, life changed completely.
Did you know that right after the bombings, one couple who had finished the marathon together went on with their plans to get married that day? I believe that was so much the right thing to do. They didn’t take that action thoughtlessly, but rather with a great deal of forethought. They discussed specifically that they would not allow faceless and nameless terrorists to bring them to their knees or to hinder them. Of course, they said, their nuptials were tinged with sadness and some element of guilt. Yet, life does go on. We have to celebrate when and what we can.
I needed to help myself in the face of these images that keep running through my brain. I needed to heal too even though I wasn’t there. As cliché as it may sound, I literally counted my blessings: remembered my friends, my family, my business success, my physical health and my material comforts. I am fully cognizant that any one of these can be taken from me, but I equally keep reminding myself that this is what life is all about. There is sadness and grief. There is tragedy and trauma. But always, there is hope – for without it we will lose our humanity.