All over Logan airport in the wee hours of dawn today, they were wearing the electric blue and yellow 2013 Boston Marathon jackets, shirts, and caps. Some wore medals around their necks. Some were limping from blisters worn or muscles strained. The walking wounded were unmistakably identifiable.
Less than 48 hours after the 117th almost-traditional running of the hallowed Boston Marathon, the reality of what happened to interrupt this "life is good" Patriot's Day head-liner seemed to be suspended in the surreal, and the look of disbelief was on every face we saw, runners and non-runners, young and old, man and woman. Were it not for the constant barrage of TV news coverage (looping with the same images over and over) and the front page of every newspaper on the rack, it could seem like it couldn't have possibly happened . . . that it was little more than a Hollywood rendering of an imagined disaster at the most storied marathon in American history.
How could something so good, so wholesome, so full of life, in 13 short seconds be turned into a scene not unlike a battlefield from war, ironically on the day commemorating the battlefield which launched the Revolutionary War? How could the laughter, the cheering, the celebrations, the herculean accomplishments of so many vaporize in the acrid smell and deafening sound of "bombs bursting in air", creating panic, chaos, wounds, and death—just like that?
Against the backdrop of a much-prayed-for beautiful cool, spring day, more that 25,000 participants attempted to fulfill what their long and arduous training had prepared them for. They were ready for blisters, for muscle cramps, for dehydration, for glycemic levels to drop, for skin to chafe, for Heartbreak Hill, for the exhilaration of running in The Boston Marathon, and for the inimitable finish on Boylston Street among throngs of wildly cheering spectators. There's nothing like it.
And as it turned out, there has never been anything like it. The unexpected "finish" to this legendary run is something no one has ever "prepared" for. (Fortunately, the body of first responders and emergency and medical personnel in Boston were prepared or the list of dead or more seriously maimed would be much longer than it is.) Who ever thinks that if you're in the right place, doing the right thing, surrounded by like kind, that a human-created tragedy of this nature would happen?
After all, it's one thing when you're dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster. Though many are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy in November and from Blizzard Nemo (and several of his friends) in February, throughout the land we're united as people dealing with the forces of nature. A human being is incapable of detonating storms of this magnitude, so we rally together to recover from such catastrophic events. They happen. hey're part of the ebb and flow of natural episodes in meteorology.
But this. This strikes at the core of our confidence in humanity because "one (or more) of us" did this to us. The vast majority of us cannot get our hearts and minds around the truth that we've been betrayed by our own. A human being (or beings) made and detonated the bombs with the intent of wounding and killing. It was pre-meditated. It was calculated. In cold blood.
Much was lost on Monday. From 2:50 p.m. onward, for hours that seemed eternal, "everyone and everything" seemed lost. Still-competing runners lost the finish line. Spectators lost those they were there for. Backpacks and gear lost their owners. Designated volunteers lost their specified tasks. First Aid tents lost their purpose as they were repurposed as emergency rooms. Cell phones lost their reception. The beauty of the day was lost. The celebration of great accomplishments was lost. Lives were lost. Limbs were lost. Peace was lost. Innocence was lost.
But in a strange twist, hatred and enmity were also lost, or more accurately, were re-focused from petty rivalries and dysfunctional relationships, from socio-economic class warfare, from ethnic and political tensions to One Common Enemy. Evil. Differences aside, rich and poor, black and white, Republican and Democrat, Yankees and Red Sox fans lost the drive to be against one another and united to be against the Evil that caused the Boston Marathon and Patriot's Day to be forever changed.
The losses will continue to take their toll for days, weeks, months, years—and even a lifetime, for some. Though a modicum of "normal" will resume eventually, it will return as a "new normal", much like what exists at airports today as a nod to the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Rivalries will resurface. Our differences will at some point take center stage. "Sweet Caroline" will return to its exclusive place in Fenway Park.
Unless we decide to unite to fight the Real Enemy. The bombs were set by humans who have given themselves over to Extreme Evil. Hatred. Darkness. Hopelessness.
But truth be told, that very evil exists within each of us who would be human. It manifests itself in much lesser ways—at least, that are quantifiable by physical damage. At the root of all evil is my selfishness. In a belief that "it's all about me." In petty jealousies and fleeting or not so fleeting thoughts which wish ill on others. In living for my own happiness. Because I deserve it.
Heroic acts were performed in legion numbers on Monday. Some risked their lives to save others. People helped people. You need blood? You need a ride? You need a bed? You need a medal? You need help? You need a tourniquet? You need to be carried? There was no shortage of good will and sacrifice on Monday.
That could be true on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, too. We could emerge from this having lost much, but having gained more. Having lost a blind eye to the evil lurking in my soul, driving my self-centeredness, and choosing to live differently. With a heart for others that translates in to serving them. Loving them. Sacrificing for them.
In the words of Jim Elliot, who gave everything he had to sacrificially love others, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose."
This is Boston.