DISCLAIMER: this entry contains a few graphic images.
Unless you were living under a rock (and no offense to those of you who actually do - I like what you're trying to do for the environment), you may have heard/read/watched the events surrounding the bombings at last week's Boston Marathon, an event in which innocent lives were taken in a seemingly random act of hate.
Acts of hate are usually never random.
I'm not going to give you a play-by-play, take you through the details, make a statement on terrorism, or call for the heads of the perpetrators. I'm sure most of you have seen enough videos and read enough articles concerning this grisly event to last you a lifetime. Some of those said images will never go away.
I'll admit, I followed the live stream of the intense manhunt which took place the following Thursday and Friday of last week after the bombing occurred on Monday. I took in every detail. I read the transcripts from police scanners, strained my eyes to see the events unfold in grainy on-site pictures, and studied maps of the suspect's flight through Boston. Like most Americans, I wanted to know what happened. Sure, I wanted them to get the bad guy, but I guess I also wanted closure. Sadly, such a luxury following something tragic like this cannot be so easily obtained as that.
Map detailing the hunt for the suspects.
I don't quite remember what I was feeling immediately following September 11th. I was in 8th grade and most likely not very sensitive to the severity of the situation. Of course, my understanding towards the 9/11 attacks have increased exponentially over the years. Empathy and sorrow have replaced what was once the lack of an ability for my young teenage mind to grasp the weight of that day.
However, I never felt anger. I didn't clap when Bin Laden was killed. I didn't proclaim a holy war against Islam. I never felt the deep-seated pain that comes with such a tragedy. I was 14. I didn't know how to feel those things without having them steeped in immaturity. Even now, over ten years removed the attacks, I couldn't conjure up tears about it if I was paid to. You can't force yourself to feel a certain way. You either do or you don't.
But I will tell you this.
I felt something after this specific attack. It wasn't the violent act itself, nor the pictures of theblood-spattered pavements on the sidelines; not the hundreds of runners stranded without lodging or the people frantically looking for their loved ones. It was this picture:
This is a picture of 8 year-old Martin Richard, one of the three people killed by the bomb. He was waiting for his father to cross the finish line when the bombs went off. His 6 year-old sister lost her leg and his mother was in critical condition as a result of the explosion. Again, he was one of the three people killed. Eight years old.
When I first saw this poignant image, it hit me hard. It didn't fully sink in until later, when it really gripped me. I don't know if it's because I watch kids for a living, but I couldn't get this picture out of my mind. It rocked me with a grief I didn't know I could feel for someone I had never met. When I say grief, I mean a grown man slumping down in the corner of the shower and weeping kind of grief. Even now, tears well in my eyes as I type this up.
Why? God, why did it have to be him?
As you can expect, it was then that I felt the first tendrils of anger rising up in me. Hate filled me for the Tsarnaev brothers and their spineless act of violence resulting in Martin's death. I wanted them dead. I didn't care about a trial or the evidence. I wanted justice.
But that didn't last long. Knee-jerk reactions aren't my thing, especially when they bear the magnitude of situations such as this one. I didn't want to devolve into a thoughtless commentator calling for the deaths of people I knew nothing about. What followed the anguish and anger was not what I expected to feel.
I felt hope.
This is a picture of 52 year-old Carlos Arredondo (now famously know as "the man with the Cowboys hat") pinching - yes, pinching - the artery of victim Jeff Bauman, to keep him from bleeding to death. Many on site witnessed Carlos pushing aside debris to rush toward the victims seconds after the explosions. Without thought or a concern to his own safety, this man put his life in danger to help those less fortunate. In fact, if you have seen any of the videos of the bombing, you can see Carlos acting quickly to aid the injured.
With this single image, my mourning and blind rage gave over to something more powerful. Events like this show us the worst of humanity; the indiscriminate violence and the resulting backlash of anger and hate give us a glimpse of our species' crooked faults, reminding us that we live in a stupid, stupid world filled with equally stupid people. Fatalism at its finest.
But in the aftermath, I don't remember the death toll or the graphic images as much as these images:
Above, the entire Boston Police Department line the streets to form an honor escort for the deceased MIT security officer, Sean Collier. He was simply sitting in his patrol car when he was killed by the suspects on the Thursday following the bombing.
It's pictures like the two above that I'll remember the most when it comes to these events. I was young when 9/11 happened but not so young that I don't remember churches nationwide being packed by thousands praying in the wake of the attacks. I'm not necessarily saying my faith in humanity is restored - you have to have faith to lose it in the first place - I'm saying that my mind won't cling to sorrow and anger as acutely as it clings to hope. Hope for a mad, mad world. I can't adequately explain exactly what these pictures make me feel, but I believe this quote by Jon Stewart following the events of 9/11 sums it up perfectly:
There will always be senseless acts of violence and people to hate. There will forever be memorial services canonizing the dead and people losing their lives for no other reason than simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But as blunt as it may be, Mr. Stewart's quote renews what little faith I may have in the world. Carlos Arrendondo and his Cowboys hat does as well. And it's these people I'm going to remember, not the terrorists. Not the bad guys, but the good ones - the truly good ones - who value their lives less than those of the people they might save.
Remember them with me.
Hug someone you love today.