When I first heard about the Boston Marathon bombings, I underestimated the heartache that would burst into so many people’s lives. My brain has grown so sickened by the constant flow of media-hyped bad news that screams at us 24/7 that it shuts down. My brain now filters news like a spam guard, to protect my heart from feeling helpless in the face of endless “news” reports of tragedy and mayhem.
When I learned that a young child and two adults died in the bombing, and that more than 260 people were injured, including numbers of people who underwent catastrophic amputations — I turned the filters off. I let the news and the pain in.
Upon learning of the heroic efforts of both police and firefighters on the scene, I felt deep appreciation for those who risk harm and death while protecting us from extreme danger.
Fifteen firefighters from Beverly and Cambridge, who were volunteering their services at the marathon, snapped into heroic action just moments after the bombing. Beverly fire Chief Paul Cotter commended the firefighters for helping and comforting victims in the midst of a chaotic and terrifying situation.
The death of MIT police officer Sean Collier, along with the serious injury of MBTA officer Richard Donahue in a shootout with the bombers, made me more aware of what most of us take for granted: When ordinary people instinctively run away from risk of harm and death, police and firefighters run toward it. They run toward bullets and into fires for us. And they do this on a moment’s notice.
My wife, Wanda, and I decided to go into Boston to pay tribute to victims by visiting the marathon memorial in Copley Square. It was a very intense experience. The memorial site was filled with photos of those killed and injured, as well as written signs expressing love, respect, prayers and deep sorrow. Many hundreds of sneakers were left on the ground along with a moving display of stuffed animals. Most profound was the state of mind that was in the atmosphere at the memorial site. It dropped us into a deeply moving level of awareness where, amid great silence and frequent sobbing, those present became connected to each other and to those killed and harmed.