My daughter was scheduled to leave for California the day after the bombings in Boston. We live about forty miles north of the city; my son works in downtown Boston, so my daughter and I drove down to have lunch with him before she left to fly across the country.
It was a beautiful day, springlike, finally, with daffodils blooming and just enough sun so we didn’t need to zip our jackets. We took sandwiches to Paul Revere Park and watched dog walkers, moms with strollers, joggers, and the traffic rushing over the bridge above us.
The only off notes were the police and news helicopters circling, circling, circling overhead, reminding us of the events the day before, of the Boston Marathon, typically one of the most joyous international events, so sadly marred by some crazy group or individual or collective that decided creating bombs out of pressure cookers would be a terrific way to cause a stir.
A stir was caused, for sure. People died: an eight year-old boy carrying a sign for peace, a young restaurant worker, and a Chinese graduate student from Boston University. Others had limbs amputated or nails and metal embedded in their limbs from the blast.
There can be no possible explanation for an act like this, yet acts like this occur all over the world, nearly every day. It has gotten so we put our children on school buses with fear that some whack job will jump onto the bus and shoot the driver. We glance over our shoulders as we enter movie theaters, schools, malls, and airports, wondering whether we’ll come out again.
We tell ourselves, as the Boston authorities are doing already in discussing next year’s marathon, that we’ll impose new gun laws or do a more careful sweep of perimeters for events like these. We tell ourselves that we’ll catch all the bad guys and maybe even kill them like they killed our friends, our neighbors, or our sons and daughters.
Violence perpetuates violence. That’s my biggest fear: that our children will never know ordinary, boring days, but will always wait for planes to fall out of the sky or explosives to go off under their feet. That they will never know joy without fear, and that peace will be unattainable because we are all too busy exacting revenge for past acts.
The only solace we can find is in each other, in the men and women who acted selflessly to rush forward to help the wounded, in the onlookers who saw that marathon runners were without their cell phones or clothes and helped them find what they needed for comfort. We hope that we will rise as a community, as a strong entity against evil, against whatever dark spirit caused something like this to happen. It won’t be easy to do this without wanting revenge, but we have no choice but to try. We must forgive, and forgive, and forgive again, for that is the only way forward to peace.
We must pray for our children not to arm themselves, but to live in community, joyfully and without fear, having picnics in the park, still, even with helicopters circling overhead, taking note of the daffodils and the dogs wagging their tails, and yes, the babies being born into this world, knowing nothing, yet, but love.