Saturday, April 20, 2013

Relentless Attention: Boston Marathon Reflection

Last Saturday I had no idea that a Boston Marathon criminal event would take center stage in my vacation week. First, I was sad and angry that criminals interrupted the lives of innocent people with such a violent act. Like everyone, I couldn't take my eyes off the bright smile and big eyes of innocent Martin Richard who was probably watching the runners with the dream of someday joining the event. I thought of my own bright-eyed children at home and in school as I read and listened to the stories of death and disablement the bombing caused.

Next, I was saddened that these same criminals took the time to disrupt a timeless, people-centered, joyful event that represents so much of what is good about life including hard work, fund raising, sport and community. The Boston Marathon is a signature event in New England culture as well as the culture throughout the United States and world.  Positive events like the Marathon serve to focus our attention, build community and give us something to celebrate and work for.

Then, I was frightened. Who did this? Where are they? Will other innocent people lose their lives this week? Why does this happen? I listened to the steps of the thoughtful investigators as they tried to figure out who committed this violent act. I read social media threads as "couch detectives" tried to solve the crime. I watched how the search narrowed in on two young men, and then how the manhunt served to find those men--killing one in an exchange of fire and arresting another. I gave a huge sigh of relief when both men were caught.

Now, many questions and trials are left to conquer as investigators and victims work to understand the entire situation, get their lives back on track, and move towards a brighter, safer future. I was also well aware of the many throughout the world that posted their own pain related to bombings, terrorism, crime and injury in their communities and countries--they wondered how America could spend so much attention and time on a crime that resulted in so few lost lives unlike the bombings that happen daily in their communities and world.

I'm left with a sense of pride and quest. I am very proud of the leadership, intelligence and effort demonstrated in this event by countless law officers, medical staff, families and community members. There was a tremendous outpouring of effort and humanity.

I'm also left with many questions. First, I wonder how we can help to dissuade young people from joining groups that foster hate and violence. This is a problem on an international level and on a local level.  In the news we read stories of young people who join international groups that foster violence and hatred; we read stories of young people who join local groups that also perpetrate crimes that injure innocent individuals and weaken communities, and we read stories of individuals who kill.  It isn't always young people, but it often is. What draws these people to such groups and activity?  What weakens their sense of humanity to a degree where they can consider, plot and carry out plans that harm innocent people? I believe there are actions we can take for our young in early life that will help to foster a greater sense of humanity and positive action. As a teacher, I know it's important that we foster an optimal education, community, care and advocacy in the early years so that young adults have the tools to live a good, positive life.  As a mom, I know it's important that I remain faithful to my young son's growth and development, supporting them with my best efforts and abilities. Also, as a culture we must make the time to do the work that matters and support communities in a way that creates the potential for quality lives for our young, lives that give them the impetus to move into adulthood with responsibility and care.

Next, this incident calls me to think more about our international work and connections. We were right to put so many resources in place to investigate this crime and help the victims. By doing this, our leaders demonstrated that we will not tolerate acts of this nature and that we do care about our citizenry. Yet, when others around the world cry out for our help, we can't turn away.  We have to look for ways to support their efforts toward peace in ways that are positive and life affirming.

The work and action of all involved in this terrible Boston Marathon tragedy served to diminish the bravado and power of hateful acts. As medical staff, investigators, leaders, families and communities worked together they served to model the best of what a community can be for all.  While this event began with an act of terror, it has resulted in showing the strength of positive collaboration and a focus on life demonstrating that every life matters and there is no room for violence and hatred. In the days that follow, it is my hope that our court system will also demonstrate tenacity and fairness as they further investigate this crime. I also hope that leadership, medical staff, families and communities will continue to pour forth their commitment and care to the many victims of this terrible event. Life will include painful trials, and it is the way in which we react to these trials that makes a difference and sets a more positive course for the future.