This hit me pretty close to “where I live.” My father was finishing lunch with a friend less than a block away… and was getting ready to head over to the race. We couldn’t get in touch with either of them until they arrived back home more than an hour later. My wife works downtown at a space that hosts marathon-related events. I am beyond thankful that I don’t have more of a story to tell than that. But this post isn’t about me.
This about US. Whenever a tragedy like this happens, I am struck by the stark contrast of this horrible day, from every other day, (since September 11th.) I always hope that tragedy can bring us perspective. All to often I think we as Americans take for granted the “blanket of freedom” and safety that is provided us every day. As a parent, this sort of thing is even more terrifying than I ever thought anything could be. I know what kind of person I am. If I had been there, I like to think that the “5 years ago me,” would likely have run toward the disaster to help total strangers. I also know that if I had been there yesterday, my first and only thought would have been for my 4 year old son. The first thing that I’m grateful for is that I wasn’t there, and that I didn’t have to make that decision. I was safely at home with my son a town away in Milton. Still, I would not leave the house with my son, until hours later when it was safe for us to drive downtown to pick Mommy up.
Our planned trip to Chuck E. Cheese seemed somehow risky to me. Letting my wife take the train home was out of the question. I think it is appropriate for us to be tremendously grateful for what we have in this country on every other day. Terrorism’s goal is to make us question how safe we are at the very times and places where we should be safe. Acts of terror perpetrated on our soil like Oklahoma City, the Olympic bomber, 9/11, the Unabomber, etc are horrific. But, their iconic milestone stature in our society speaks to their infrequency.
Beyond the immediate safety of my family, I am grateful for much else today. I am grateful for the safety and security we have every day. It is a far thiner line than we think that separates us from lawlessness, fear, and anarchy. I find myself imagining what it must be like to be a parent in other places in the world. And, not just third world countries. When we hear about genocide in places in Rwanda it is far to easy to dismiss it as something that happens to “other people, somewhere else.” Maybe because it it Africa. Maybe because it is just to hard for us to imagine evil on such a large scale.
But, I wonder what it would be like to get on a city bus with my son in Tel Aviv? How quickly did Yugoslavia descend in to neighbor killing and raping neighbor? Can you truly protect your family from the cartels in certain parts of Mexico? Is any successful businessman safe from being kidnapped in Venezuela or Columbia? Imagine what daily life is like in Syria right now? How about Iraq. 10 years after Saddam, you still might not know if you’re going to die in a bomb blast when you go to the market. Imagine living like that? I’m grateful that we don’t have to.
I’m also grateful for all of our men and women in uniform around the world. We talk about how traumatic the sights and sounds of yesterday are, and rightly so. We talk about it being impossible to forget. Well, let’s consider what our returning service men and women have seen and done. Even the most hardened soldier is still a human being. My heart goes out to all human being who have had to witness things like this.
I am grateful to our law enforcement community and our nation’s commitment to keeping us safe. Think about today, the next time you want to complain about airport security. Know that a starting State Police Officer in MA makes 43.5K to risk his life everyday. Kids or not, that Statie doesn’t have a choice. His/her job is to go toward the blast. As a society, we should respect that commitment on any Tuesday afternoon, not just today.
This might be rambling and not particularly well written. I’m okay with that. I just needed to get this out. It is part of my healing process. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m scared. I’m scared for my family and myself. I’m angry at what has been taken away. But, I’m tremendously grateful for what we still have. I hope we all are.