It was supposed to a joyous event. It was April 15th, 2013 in a small and insulated city called Boston where the oldest marathon was being held on a holiday called Patriot’s Day. It’s like a weekend block party where schools are closed and families come to have fun to watch 26,000 runners run for personal reasons, one of which is raising capital for various charities that mean something to them such as cancer victims, supporting Iraq war veterans or fallen veterans.
Every runner knows what it’s like to turn the corner on Boylston Street and see the finish line and see families cheering them. As if it was planned for when the runners would be making their home stretch, two pressure cooker bombs containing shrapnel and smokeless gun powder intended to injure, maim and put terror into people exploded. Even though it is the most televised marathon creating a greater possibility of being spotted, someone was emboldened to make a statement. It was an act of terrorism, an act intended to communicate fear to a wider audience than their actual victims.
Mayhem ensued where three people were killed and many others lost their limbs or were severely wounded. And it became a 24 hour news cycle of reporting the event featuring experts on terrorism, and disaster preparedness, and FBI profilers. Even the conspiracy theorists joined in.
This was like a bomb explosion that we hear about in the news in Israel or Bagdad. What were we to do? Some of the experts were saying that we need to be more vigilant, calling for more heightened security. This was a social event. We already have our bodies and bags searched for weapons at our airports and many of our sporting events. Others said that we should have military police patrolling in front of restaurants and nightclubs like in Israel or have live surveillance cameras at every corner like in London.
It evolved into an intense effort to focus all resources on catching the perpetrator, to discover the motive and the mindset of the person or persons responsible for this.
While this was playing out, I started to ponder what this was all about?
Why did we allow this into our reality? We didn’t go out to create it, but we allowed it. (see previous article.) Was our reality trying to talk to us about fear, about security, about freedom, about forgiveness, justice or retribution? That’s when I saw a 30 second interview that made me take notice. There was a man with his entire hands and arms covered in blood and he was holding a small equally blood drenched American flag. He was telling the story how he was in the crowd waving the flag when the bombs went off and how he ran over to one of the victims who had both their legs blown off by the blast and how he picked this person up and took them to the medical tent. And I thought to myself, “This is about human dignity.” You see, tragedy and dignity are akin. As awful as it may seem; many times, it is through the avenue of tragedy that we find our dignity. It is even represented archetypally in Greek mythology by Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy and Dignity. Dignity is to sense the majesty, the sense of respect and honor, and the sense of benevolence that is within a person or thing. It’s about the capacity to honor oneself and to honor other people. It’s about having a relationship with one’s Soul, and sensing the Soul of others.
People risked their own lives that day in order to save others. When so many instincts were to run away, people ran to. Among them were the first responders who ran into the chaos to save lives. People showed up at the hospitals to give blood to the victims. As President Obama puts it, “There were so many acts of heroism and acts of selflessness and generosity and love of those who stayed behind to help the wounded.”
The perpetrators were eventually caught. One was killed and the other was apprehended. They were brothers whose family was granted political asylum from persecution and allowed to come to America. Following their capture, their uncle was asked in an interview, “How do you feel about America?” He answered, “This country gives a chance to everyone to be treated like a human being.” When I heard his answer, I was even more convinced that through this horrific tragedy, one of the questions our reality is forcing us to address is, “What about human dignity?”