This photo of 8-year-old Martin is circulating the media. He died during the Boston Marathon bombings, along with two others. Almost two hundred people were injured, many severely. Most of these were volunteers and supporters, the very people who make it possible for runners to do what they do. What was supposed to be a display of joy, camaraderie and accomplishment became a murder scene, the kind that we’re only used to witnessing in 3rd-world Middle-Eastern countries. Thank God for the heroic acts of medical staff and others who rushed victims to area hospitals.
My heart aches for those affected by this vile act of hatred. It aches for Martin, an innocent soul who reminds me of my own son, who’s life was stolen from him prematurely minutes after he ran into the crowded street to embrace his father at the finish line. Violence has become widely prevalent in our culture, and technologies such as social media have made isolation from others more common. It’s easy to want to turn our heads and become apathetic, or to become bitter and cut ourselves off from everyone. But the faces of these victims and those of other recent mass killings must be remembered. Their memory can be the fire in our bellies that keeps us fighting for the peace and security that we and our kids deserve.
So now, as we try to make sense of who and what motivated this terrorist attack, we can ask ourselves–How will we heal? Of course, we need to pursue justice. But should we examine our own attitudes toward others? Should we consciously choose to focus on what unites us rather than on our cultural, political, ethnic or religious divisions? On 9/11, I was living in Boston, working at a local TV station. I remember how we all responded to the horror of that day by overcoming these differences, if only temporarily. We healed by using what binds us together to unite under the common cause of good.
Boston is a proud, resilient city, and running is a sport like no other. It allows us to come together–without exclusion—for a positive, uplifting purpose. For me, and perhaps for you, too–running is a gateway to inner peace. But it also makes you tough. It makes you strong. Sure, you fail, but that only makes you fight harder. You get up, and do it again. And again, and again, if need be.
As parents, citizens, role models, elected officials, members of the human race–Let’s fight back the way runners do. We can be that beacon of light and hope that always beats out evil. It will be hard. But it’s time to put our big-boy (or girl) pants on and refuse to accept the hatred, violence, fear, prejudice, mistrust, and the insistence of old, tired dogmas that we have no use for. Let’s band together through encouragement, understanding, commitment, compromise, and pure, raw strength of will. It’s time for us to lace up our shoes and actually walk the walk. For Martin, and for the others.