No one really knows what they are made of until life happens in a big way like at the Boston Marathon bombings. Some people find they aren’t who they thought they were and others find they have a strength, courage, and purpose they thought they had lost forever.
It takes a special kind of hopeless desperation or perverse ideology to do what those Chechen brothers did. We don’t know a motive for this attack. Many people including those in the government are calling it a terrorist attack. Honestly, I don’t know what else it could be. It certainly had the desired effect of a terror attack. There were thankfully few deaths but hundreds of injuries and nationwide panic. There are some things worse and more dangerous than death.
While this attack caused a great deal of destruction, panic, and grief it also brought out the strength of the American people. Neighbors and strangers ran into danger to help pull others to safety. One of the runners was a doctor and while I’m sure he was exhausted and scared insisted on being able to help the injured. Yet another conquered the grief over the loss of his son, the reason he was at the marathon, and found purpose again. Helping rescue others in need broke him out of the immobilizing grief he’d been trapped in.
What would I have done if I’d been a spectator when the first bomb went off showing smoke, ash, and debris? When bodies started moving and falling only to be further jarred into chaos by the second explosion. How would I have reacted to the shear panic, the noise of the explosions, people’s screams of pain, people yelling to find loved ones when all around them the ground was slick with blood? Would I have been able to hold it together when body parts were disconnected from their owners or would I have added to the panic and the regret of all the things in life that go unsaid and all the things said that shouldn’t have been?
I have no idea and honestly I hope I never have a reason to find out. I hope that I would find strength and courage buried deep inside me to be what I needed to be to help. What this teaches me is not a new lesson but an old one: Life is short. Don’t take it for granted. I try never to leave a friend or family member angry and all my conversations and text messages end in I love you because I’m less afraid of saying it too much and more afraid of regretting what I said and didn’t say should something like the Boston Marathon bombings, or Sandy Hook, or Columbine, or you name it happening here. We live our lives believing those things only happen to other people and when something like that happens to us we are ill equipped to deal with it.
Life is short, don’t waste it. Don’t be afraid to love the people you love. Don’t wait until the last minute to do what needs to be done because you may miss it. And above all, if nothing else, believe that there is a good God to turn a tragedy into an opportunity for change. Don’t let a tragedy be just a tragedy. Force it to be something more, something better.