You’re 26 miles in. You’ve been training for a year now, and no, it wasn’t easier than you expected. But you’re close. So close it doesn’t matter that the length of your calf is itching to stretch. So close that sweat starts to seem like a constant low-pressure showerhead that rests above your hairline. So close that the finish line, once a far off goal, is in your line of vision.
And then, boom. Twenty seconds later, boom.
I don’t have any specific memories from 9/11. For me, there is no before and after. It’s always been after. My generation lives in constant awareness of the war on terror. We may not remember, but we will never forget.
It isn’t as if the Newtown shooting was the first violent tragedy since I was born. There have been tens – hundreds, even. But December 14, 2012 was the first time I felt more than saddened by an act of terrorism. When the shooting happened, I was old enough to make decisions about what should come next. I was old enough to question how not-so-well the world’s puzzle pieces fit together.
After Newtown, it was time for me to have an opinion on gun laws and the state of mental health in this country. I had to think about what I would do in that situation. How would I react if one of those kids had been my younger cousin in her kindergarten class? Then I realized I didn’t need to be related to a victim to be tied to the situation. At a time like this, we are all family. We are all suffering. At the end of the firearms debate session, we can shake hands knowing that the other side has the same goal in mind: protecting our citizens. The “how” is the only issue at hand.
When I heard about the bombings in Boston, I felt uneasy continuing with my day. Softball seemed selfish. Eating, reading, talking, running, it all seemed like I was stealing something that didn’t belong to me. I started the same day as those runners did. We woke up, showered, and grabbed a banana on our way out. We wished on the same lucky numbers, shook our heads at the same celebrity gossip, and bookmarked the same cat-related YouTube videos. But somehow, their day became very different from my own. The decision made by two people changed the course of the lives of everyone in the area and all who love them. What does this mean to me, a sophomore a few states away? It means I’m living in a world where there are no guarantees. People are out there, determined to cause harm to those around them. You don’t always get to run for your life.
It’s true, this all sounds really awful. People’s lives have been taken by the actions of untrustworthy people. But we must find the silver lining in a tragedy that seems too heartbreaking for the obligatory “yeah, but (insert the good that may come).” While I am not proud to live in the same world as the people who caused this harm, I am in awe of the bystanders who rushed to aid those in need. There was no moment wasted in helping the fallen. Victims were carried to safety. Local Boston pizza establishments have been delivering food to hospitals and police stations around the clock. Moreover, the entire country has come together to honor the city of Boston in its time of need. Boston and Chicago may have rival sports teams. But the sports section of the Chicago Tribune showed their support by writing “We are (insert names of Boston sports teams)” on the front page. People everywhere have given blood for hospitals to supply to the victims.
Mr. Rogers (and all those Facebook statuses) had it right. At a time like this, we have to “look for the helpers.” The world is tough, that is especially evident after a wide-scale tragedy. The future can be scary and unreliable. But when we hit rock bottom, people are there to lift us up. At least we can feel safe knowing that a hand will help us once we fall. It’s not a perfect guarantee, but it’s something. And I guess that’s all we can ask for.
To the people of Boston: you’re in our hearts.