Observations of a Tragedy In the Making

So just over an hour ago the reports came in about the explosionsat the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon.  A shocking thing for many people on many levels.  At this writing, three are reported dead and around two dozen injured.  Additional incendiary devices are being reportedly found.  It is a sad thing to witness.  It strikes close to home on two counts.  I live 20 miles north of Boston and I do hope to some day run a big marathon (and am training for a marathon this year).  But I am safe—as are the vast majority of those who attended and participated in the event. That is relieving but for the fact that in the ensuing weeks, we will be reminded time and time again of how it could have been us in some way, shape, or form.

My first response was the following which I posted on my Facebook and Twitter:  “so there has clearly been a tragedy at the Boston Marathon. Yes, check on your friends and loved ones to make sure they are ok. But do yourself and everyone a favor, step away from the newsfeed. Do not obsess over it. Do not constantly check FB, Twitter, newsites, and news channels for updates. Check back in the evening or tomorrow. Obsessing over it will continue to fester anxiety and worry without any real cure besides increased fear and anxiety--which doesn't do anyone any good. Instead, count your blessings and appreciate that you have a life to live.”

If it plays out like other such events—especially if it is terrorist-related—there will be many speeches, there will be much fear-mongering, and there will be a lot of anxiety induced.  And thus, we commit and are complicit in the second tragedy that befalls such events.  We learn the wrong lessons and further empower those who want to do us harm.  In the end, the terrorist can only take our lives.  But if we allow for it, they can also take our minds.  When we fixate on the violation that such an event represents, we can be so obsessively concerned about it, that we lose sight of what it is that terrorists want.  More than our lives, they want our minds.  They want the freedom of thought and spirit to be strangled away by fear of what may happen.  The power of the terrorist act is not the initial violence but in the internal violence that runs through everyone’s head as they replay and readjust their lives out of the fear instilled from the event. 

Though I am saddened by the tragedy, I am also deeply awed by the way we as humans react.  Though I read and see some people’s reactions focused on how sick/evil/wrong people are, I find that a train of thought a dead end.  There will always be extreme people—but they are still few in comparison to all the good people.  Regardless of the number of people involved in this—it will pale in comparison to the number of people who are doing good both directly and indirectly:  by being first responders, police officers, and caregivers to those affected or by donating money, time, and blood to the event.  In the aftermath of such tragedies, my faith for humanity is renewed because of the following:

1.  The Facilitation of Information
Within minutes of it happening, people were quick to info others.  Twitter, Facebook, and virtually all social media went full speed ahead with people trying to make sure people knew.  That information went from digital to physical and back to digital.  I watched as people at the coffee shop I was at read about it on their phones, communicated it with others which sent them to checking in and spreading it on their own devices.  There’s an undervalued awesomeness here in that in under two hours of the event—not weeks, not days, and barely “hours”, the information travelled around the world—thousands of miles through thousands of circuits and routes.  The instantaneity of the event sent us to check in with those who we cared about.  Which brings me to my second point:

2.  The Reiteration of Safety and Care
I received several texts and Facebook messages of friends checking in on my safety and I saw a great deal of my Boston-located friends and family checking in.  Myriads of people were able to quickly and clearly communicate their safety and allay the fears and concerns of loved ones.  We wanted to communicate our own safety and hear from others.  That is, we connected and appreciated how quickly our fear could be allayed.  We looked to love, first and foremost. 

3.  The Explosion of Empathy and Aide
More than anything what was impressive in the aftermath was the amount of empathy and aide that flowed towards Boston.  Innumerable wishes to the safety of people in Boston from individuals and organizations.  Prayers and thoughts of Boston in abundance feed my Twitter and Facebook feeds.  Coupled with this were helpful pieces of information too.  Below are some of them posted on Twitter and the ongoing information and response to the event.  Ample people both connected to Boston and having nothing to do with Boston sending their thoughts and prayers for no other reason than they feel its important for the people of Boston to know they care.  Some may find this frivolous—it’s just a tweet or a FB post, but then if it is so frivolous and meaningless why would so many take the time to do it—amounting to what collectively would look like hours (probably days) worth of effort to communicate said care and concern.  

I say all this—not to undermine the serious loss and sadness experienced by the victims, the victims’ family, or any others directly or indirectly impacted by the event.  I cannot speak to the ways in which this will deeply impact their lives.  But for the rest of us, I think there is much to consider about how we move forward and what lessons we take from this. 

I also say this from the safety of a coffee shop in Salem while the event unfolded.  I recognize that I am both physically and emotionally removed in many ways which I am sure some will consider for a reason to disregard what I have said.  Such is their right.  But I do believe there is value in learning the right lessons from this tragedy and understanding that though it is sad, there are many ways it reaffirms our humanity instead of rejecting it.

We may never be able to fully prevent all such events from happening.  This may be the "new normal" as some would argue.  However, what we can control is how we react to it.  We can reaffirm our humanity and push the fear aside or we can be locked into it.  I would chose to push the fear aside and from what I see around me--so would the vast majority.  Let us hope that is the lesson we learn here.  

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