I’ve had trouble making sense of much today. It’s been a daze and a blur.
I first heard about the bombs at the Boston Marathon via a text from my fiancée, Hillary. I spent the rest of the afternoon confirming that everyone I knew in the area was ok… a task that kept me busy, but with no time to process what was happening/had happened. (Thankfully, everyone I’ve gotten a hold of is ok.)
Once I got home, I was able to have a brief conversation with my roommate and great friend, Indy. Just talking out loud made me realize how little I’d really processed.
It’s moments like these when we really search for some sort of meaning. It has to mean something… right? But there’s a reason heinous crimes are frequently described as “senseless.”
Living in a free society, you intellectually accept that there are certain risks associated with that… intellectually you understand that there’s a negligible chance of some fluke accident, or some crazy incident seems like an acceptable risk. But when you confront what that means in real terms… when your fiancée was only a ten minute walk from a bomb site while on her way to that site… you want it to mean something, even though you know it doesn’t. (Frankly, this post is still just me striving in vain to pull some meaning from the ether.)
When I was finally able to talk to Hillary this evening, I was calling for her: in case she really needed to talk. She was there after all. What I found is that I was the one who needed to talk. I needed to process why I was still in a daze. Still so rattled.
Obviously, I was rattled by Hillary’s proximity to danger. But I’m not sure that accounts for how long I stayed upset: in learning the news, I simultaneously learned she was safe (it was her text that informed me). Was this all just a mix of anxiety and relief from the closeness of the call? I don’t think so.
What it was, as I found myself articulating to Hillary, was a combination of her physical proximity to the bombs on the one hand with my emotional proximity to those hit by those bombs on the other. These runners… they are my people.
Laura, an old friend of mine who I met way back in middle school, put it well on Facebook: “A marathon is a celebration of courage, athleticism, hard work, and mostly unity. What a tragedy to see this spirit taken away by senseless violence. My heart hurts for all involved.”
Unity. These are my people.
In that conversation with Hillary, I realized that marathoners–runners–had become my people. And like many of them I had come to share a common goal: a BQ.
I’ve only run one marathon, but as with so many of us… one is all it takes to set the hook. And like so many marathoners, and aspiring-marathoners… a BQ (Boston Qualifier for those not yet initiated), is the most lofty and challenging of goals.
These are my people. And this was an attack on my people. On all of my people: Americans, Loved Ones, Friends, and Runners (from every corner of the globe: something like 90+ countries were represented). And that is why it hurts.
There are still no answers. And there will never be satisfying answers, even when we find out the details of “Who?” and “Why?” There are people, my people, who came to Boston to achieve a lifelong goal, who may never be able run again. What is there to make of that?
This is from an article pointed to by my friend Devan:
Like a scar across someone’s face, the bombing will now be a part of the Boston Marathon, but also like a scar, we have to remember it’s only a part. If this bombing will always be a part of the Boston Marathon, then so is Kathrine Switzer. I want to tell the story of Kathrine Switzer because it’s about remembering the Boston Marathon as something more than the scene of a national tragedy.
Through 1966, women weren’t allowed to run the grueling 26-mile race. But in 1967, a woman by the name of Kathrine Switzer registered as K.V. Switzer and, dressed in loose fitting sweats, took to the course. Five miles into the race, one of the marathon directors actually jumped off a truck to forcibly remove Switzer from the course, yelling: “Get the hell out of my race!” But the men running with her fought him off. For them, Kathrine Switzer had every right to be there. For them, the Boston Marathon wasnʼt about exclusion or proving male supremacy—pitting boys against girls. It was about people running a race. Somehow Kathrine Switzer kept her pace as this mayhem occurred all around her. As she said, “I could feel my anger dissipating as the miles went by—you can’t run and stay mad!” […]
In 1967, Boston Marathon gave us all a glimpse of the possible. Today we saw not of the world we’d aspire to live in, but the one we actually inhabit. Instead of the triumph of the individual amidst the powerful throngs and inspiration of the collective, we have tragedy, disarray, panic, and fear. Like a scar, it now marks us: the loss of security among the mass. But like a scar, we may need to wear it proudly. We will run next year because the alternative is too awful to contemplate.
It’s a scar. But its our scar. There is no meaning in this senseless act, but there is meaning in us… in our community. These are our people.
Tonight, let’s rally around our loved ones. Tomorrow, I’ll see you on the road at 6am. And I’ll do my damnedest to see you in Boston running this race next Spring. Or the next.
“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” – Kathrine Switzer