As I sit here digesting the news and reading about what’s happened all week in Boston, I am finally ready to write about Monday’s attack. The city of Boston was under lock down. Police, SWAT Teams, Military, Law Enforcement, and dozens of News Agencies were crawling all over the city. There was a massive manhunt for the second suspect in the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon. Fortunately, he was caught and the city and world breathed a collective sigh of relief, at least for the moment.
I was not in Boston on Monday but many of my friends and fellow runners were there. Some of these people are very close to me, and some I have come to know through Facebook. Social Media is amazing Because of it, I have been introduced to people I never would have had the opportunity to know, and I feel Blessed because of these relationships.
All week I have been vacillating between anger, fear, extreme sadness, and hope. I have struggled with some of the PTSD that I suffered with after 9/11. There are people that will say this is not like 9/11, but for many people, it is very similar. Senseless violence against innocent people, no matter the number of casualties, is unthinkable.
After 9/11, there was a huge movement towards “closing your circle” of exposure. We have created layer upon layer of security systems to protect our privacy. We screen our calls, emails, online presence, Facebook posts and photos, and keep ourselves protected in many ways from the outside world. I became suspicious of everyone. I used to fear going in tall buildings, or driving across a bridge if I saw an airplane in the sky. Even now, if I am driving or running and I see a “suspicious package” or a backpack or box sitting alone on the side of a road, or in a building, I have a momentary feeling of fear-wondering if it is a bomb. Is this rational? Hell if I know.
But THIS time, I will not let this tragedy send me into a spiral. I will not let the Terrorists affect my life in a negative way. Of course I will grieve for the innocent lives lost and for those that will be forever affected. YES, I will pray for them and their families and loved ones, but I will commit to becoming a better person for the world around me, as my way of giving back.
There is a strong need in the world for people to reach out to others and get to know them. A simple smile and a “Hello” as you cross paths with someone on a sidewalk, can make someone’s day. I see a lot of people walking in the various neighborhoods where I run, so I have several opportunities to give them a warm smile and wish them a good day. I notice the young people-maybe 12-16 years old, that look serious, heads down, maybe dressed in baggy or trendy clothes, and seem sad or uncomfortable in their own skin. They try to avoid eye contact but lately, I make a point to look into their eyes, smile, and say “HI”. I have seen some of them transform their faces with huge smiles, and show a sense of appreciation and a little embarrassment that they were even noticed! I see the same one’s a few times a week, and we are starting to recognize each other, and they have even initiated the smile and hello. Our worlds are overlapping and it is a good thing.
There is a man that I call “My Amish Boyfriend“, that rides his bike near my house. I used to see him while I drove to work, before I started running. He wears a top hat, like an Amish man would wear, instead of a bike helmet, and he has a grey beard. I figure he is in his late 60’s or early 70’s. When I started running, I saw him all over the place at a certain time of the morning. After several times passing each other, we would nod and go our own way, then over time, we’d say a quick “hi”. Recently, when we see each other, it is a bigger smile and a nice comfortable, knowing “Hi” or “Good morning”. This week, on my run, I saw him mowing a lawn at a house nearby and I ran by him and waved. I was planning on turning around and doubling back at the end of his block, and just then I decided to stop and introduce myself. I did this because of Boston. I felt like my reaching out and making this small gesture to another human being, was important. So I stopped and walked up and introduced myself to John. He gave me a big smile and said that he sees me running all over the place. We chatted and I found out his brother had just run Boston and that he was “just fine”. What a small world. I bid him good day and continued my run, feeling on top of the world for having stopped. My “Amish boyfriend” now has a name, and I have a new friend.
This week I attended a memorial run for Boston that was organized by the Portland Triathlon Club. I would guess there were over a thousand runners of all abilities that showed up to publicly proclaim their support for the people involved in the tragedy. After a short but meaningful memorial service, we ran a loop around the waterfront in honor of Boston. It was inspiring to see such a turnout and see people of all ages running, walking, pushing strollers, and being supportive. At the finish line, the organizers set up a line of people, cheering on and “high five-ing” the runners as they completed the loop. It turned into a long “gauntlet” of sorts and the energy and enthusiasm for each and every person lifted everyone’s spirits tremendously. I felt completely connected. EVERYONE that passed through got a high five and thunderous applause from all those gathered. At one point, two very dirty, scruffy homeless men, one carrying a dog, approached the area where this was all taking place. They hesitated for a second, perhaps not knowing what was happening, and then, the crowd broke into another round of applause for THEM, and they both lit up. They smiled huge smiles, stood up straighter, and briskly walked through the tunnel of cheering, high five-ing runners, that patted them on the back and thanked them for being there.It was a beautiful moment.
These gestures, small or large, create incentives that can be the beginning of change. Change someone’s mood. Change someone’s attitude. Change someone’s heart. Change YOURSELF. In the past week, I have seen a different response to this National tragedy than in times past. Instead of cocooning and “pulling up the draw bridge”, I have seen people reach out and embrace each other. Strangers have started conversations with strangers in neighborhoods, airports, waterfronts. This is the power of good over evil. This is humanity elevating itself above fear, pettiness, and ignorance.
Runners and their families were attacked. Who are runners? Why this group? We are not political, controversial, powerful, or threatening. We are “everyman”. We are old, young, fast and slow. We are dedicated and committed to endure. We love community and celebrating each others’ achievements, no matter how large or small. We take care of each other. Period. The world just saw how much of a “family” runners and their supporters are. We love. Unconditionally and completely.
So, to all the Terrorists of the world, that have no regard or respect for human life, you will not defeat us. You will not cause us to live in fear. The city of Boston and all the cities of the world that supported the victims this week have proven this. You will not win. NOT THIS TIME.