I first heard of the tragedy that occurred today at the Boston Marathon when my phone buzzed this morning with a “Breaking News” notification.
As the news unfolded throughout the day, I continued to check my phone. My Twitter feed was full of news updates. The numbers of those injured and deceased grew. Friends and family were in shock on my Facebook timeline. A million questions had yet to be answered. Why did this happen? Who did it? Was it an act of terror? The President addressed the nation. Still, questions unanswered. My phone was buzzing constantly. More speculation, more eyewitness accounts, more photos, more video clips…
And for a second, I just needed to stop reading. I closed out of all the applications on my phone and zoned out, my mind going numb from the events of the day. And as I focused back in to the screen of my phone, my thumb ran over the background image, over each of the 28 candles arranged in the shape of a heart.
It has only been four months since those 28 lives were taken that December day in Newtown, Connecticut. Not that any gap of time in between will ever render the next senseless act of violence as anymore easy to accept; the scars from each of these incidents are never truly healed, no matter how much time has passed.
But as I watched — heard, FELT — that explosion through the lens of a Boston citizen’s camera via YouTube video, the tears in my eyes and chills sent through my entire body felt eerily familiar.
It reminded me of how my stomach turned upon hearing the news that morning of December 14th, and how, that afternoon, the rain poured the entire way to Los Angeles driving from San Diego. I remembered thinking how accurately the weather reflected my mood because I sobbed the whole way.
It reminded me of the tears that welled up in my eyes as I said grace last Christmas at the dinner table, surrounded by my family. It reminded me of the anger I felt, how unfair it was, that for 28 families there would forever be an empty spot at the table.
It reminded me of how I felt a month later as I welcomed the 25th year of my life: twenty Sandy Hook Elementary School first-graders, and so many children around the world, would not get the chance.
My heart still breaks for Newtown. For all of the victims of the mass shootings in our country that have made headline news. And for the victims of the shootings that happen every day around the country that never make it on the news.
My heart breaks for Boston. For 9-11. For all those affected by acts of terror.
For the policemen and firemen who risk their lives to answer these calls. For our military forces who do so, thousands of miles away from the comfort of home.
For those who call war-torn countries their home. For my mother, who, as a young girl in Vietnam, remembers falling asleep every night to the familiar sounds of explosions in the distance. For she and her family, who lost a brother and son to the chaos and violence of war. For all the millions of people in the world who have and do share that same pain. These are things that some of us — myself included — try to understand, but can never fully.
I wish we didn’t have to try to understand how it feels to be a victim of violence, or war, or terror. I wish no one had to experience it at all. I wish it wasn’t so impossible to imagine a world without it. I wish it wasn’t SO MUCH to ask that we not hurt one another. I hope that remembering these events and the victims can remind us that violence is never worth it, and that when we choose it, no one ever wins. I hope it reminds us that life is too precious.
I also hope that it reminds us of the broader issues, not just the violence itself, but where it stems from. It always starts somewhere, and it usually starts from how we treat one another. I hope it reminds us of the profound and lasting impressions that can echo from the smallest actions of kindness. I hope it also reminds us what can come from insensitivity, or from what may seem to be a meaningless, harmless joke. I hope it challenges us to think about our actions, and remind us not to underestimate just how those actions can impact others.
I have always tried to remain positive about people and about the world we live in. Today, it is really difficult to do so.
Today I am thinking about the amazing, strong-willed individuals — the participants, their supporters — who gather as a community for races such as these around the country. I am thinking of my cousin and her family. Her husband is an avid triathlete who participates in numerous marathons and triathlons. I am thinking of their daughters, both young girls, who wake up at the most ungodly hours of the morning and bundle up in the freezing cold, just to watch and support their daddy on the day of his race.
And I think of the two bombs that went off this morning. And the fact that someone PLANNED this attack at a finish line no different from the ones my cousin and her girls gather at to support their athlete. And I feel sick.
I am trying to remind myself that fear is what these terrorists hope to evoke. They want us to be afraid to gather and partake in these types of events. They hope to break our spirits. And I know we must not let them, because then they win.
I am trying to remind myself of the silver lining; of the human spirit that prevails. It is what helps us rebuild, move on, and support one another in times such as these. I just hope that the good we find in the wake of these tragedies can one day overcome all the bad that causes them to happen in the first place.