, Newburyport, MA

April 27, 2013

Out of tragedy, community

In the Spirit
The Rev. Clinton L. Barlow

---- — Friday, April 19, began at 2:30 a.m. with a robo call from the Watertown Police Department telling residents there was an emergency in town and to stay indoors.

My wife and I went rushing downstairs to turn on the TV. We were shocked to learn that a major gun battle had taken place just a mile from our home between the Watertown police and the two suspects from the Boston Marathon bombing.

Thus began a long, tense and anxious day. Our concern was also for our daughter (a widow) and her son (our grandson) who live about one-half mile from where the shoot-out took place. They also witnessed a SWAT team storming the second-floor apartment in the building across the street from them.

It was a strange feeling looking out the window. Not a person or a car to be seen. Only the movement of police vehicles and helicopters flying above. How glad I was that the residents of Watertown were yielding to be protected by a “well-regulated militia” — local and state police, FBI, ATF, etc. — rather than having well-meaning citizens taking to the streets with guns in hand to patrol the streets and backyards (shooting every bird and squirrel that moved).

The day-long nightmare came to an end just five minutes’ walking distance from where I live. I cannot heap enough praise upon the way in which law enforcement, first responders and government conducted themselves — and cooperated together — for the safety of the public.

The perpetrators of the evil visited upon Boston on April 15 are either dead or in custody. Whether there is a wider group to be apprehended remains to be seen. We have been violated physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our task is to heal these wounds. This healing began the moment that the bombs went off in Boston. We need to resist allowing those who have been most seriously affected to become “yesterday’s news” and forget them. We must pray for them just as fervently next month as we are today.

What happened that day in Boston that gives us hope for the future? I think that Cardinal Sean O’Malley spoke to this issue at the memorial service on April 18. On that day — at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and then permeating into all of greater Boston — a crowd became a community. Most of the time we live in a crowd, which is filled with self-absorbed individuals minding their own business and ignoring one another. There are times, however, when the crowd becomes a community. A community is made up of individuals who refocus their identity on being part of something larger than themselves.

My hope and my prayer is that the community in greater Boston that has emerged — crossing religious, political, racial and ethnic lines to affirm the GOOD in the world — will not dissipate too soon.

And what of our future? Gov. Patrick has put it well. Concerning the surviving bomber, we seek accountability without vengeance. Those who just happen to be from the same nation or region or of the same religion are NOT to blame here. Concerning the future, we seek to re-establish a place wherein we can live in freedom, without fear.

And what of our future? President Obama summed it up well: “Boston, you WILL run again!”


The Rev. Clinton L. Barlow lives in Watertown and is the permanent interim pastor of the Millbury Baptist Church. He may be reached at