“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain
I think of this quote when I remember what happened four years ago here in Boston.
Patriots’ Day is a big day in Massachusetts. It’s traditionally April 19 and is now celebrated on a Monday. The holiday is a commemoration of the first battles in the Revolutionary War, fought in Lexington and Concord. Everyone growing up in Massachusetts goes to school and learns about Lexington, Concord, and the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”. “One if by land, two if by sea” is part of who we are.
But Patriots’ Day has become more. For over 100 years it’s been the Boston Marathon. It’s the Red Sox playing the only morning game each year in Major League Baseball. Traditionally the game was scheduled so it would finish in time for people to get out and see the first runners come through nearby Kenmore Square. Patriots’ Day is us. It’s who we are. It’s Boston. And four years ago it got ugly.
I won’t recount the story of evil, of two brothers and their desire to kill. We all know enough about that, enough words have been used on them. When I look at that day four years ago I see different things. One of them is concern. During the post-bombing coverage a local TV station showed a picture of what they believed to be one of the bombs. A short while later I saw a picture my daughter had taken a year before. Same angle, same shot, a picture of her mom running the marathon. That year my sister was waiting in Kenmore Square to finish the last mile with a friend. For most of us the attack wasn’t just on our city, it was personal.
Later in the week I was in Salt Lake City for an event at my daughter’s school. I met people from all around the country. They wanted to know more about what happened, shared their feelings, stood in solidarity with us. By Friday, from Salt Lake City, I felt like I had abandoned my home when the “shelter in place” order came, when the city was under siege while the search intensified, the brothers attacked again, killed more.
In spite of all this the thing that moved me the most wasn’t anger at the ugliness, it was the response of the people at the finish line. Watch this video. Thirty seconds in it starts, again at a minute twenty seconds. Or watch this one at 43 seconds. What moved me the most that day wasn’t anger, it wasn’t fear, it was hope. It was courage. Two bombs, no one knew if there were more. There were early reports that others had been found. And what happened? People ran to help. They didn’t run from the danger, they ran towards the harm: first responders; members of the National Guard; marathon volunteers; random people just trying to help. They had no idea if there were other bombs, more danger. They put aside their fear, any regard for personal safety, and ran towards the danger to help. We’ve seen it before, whether it was the firefighters who went into the towers on 09/11 or others. I won’t forget the ugliness of Patriots’ Day four years ago, but what I took from it was hope, not hate. I took away a reminder that who we are is not the ugliness of a few, it’s the faith and courage of the many. I wrote these words that day:
When something like this happens it’s easy to think that the world is evil. But watch the videos and see that there is a lot more good. Let the people that were running towards the bomb sites to help, running not knowing if there would be a third or fourth explosion, let them remind all of us that there is more good than evil. We hear more about the evil, but the good is there….
I hope that if I’m ever in that sort of situation I’ll overcome my fear and help. More of me longs to never find out, to have a world without terrorism, hate, destruction. But if I’m ever in that situation I can only hope to put aside my fear, master it, and help. That’s what I choose to remember from that day four years ago, when others helped.
Finally, we need to remember that life passes. We endure. Strength prevails. David Ortiz summed it up pretty well.