Friday, April 18, 2014

A (Holy) Week of Remembrance

Metro Boston, April 18, 2014

If you've watched any news broadcasts this week, you know that the bombings at the Boston Marathon took place a year ago Tuesday, April 15, the first bomb detonating at 2:49 PM. There was an official Day of Remembrance observance with Vice-President Biden participating; there was a moment of silence at Wentworth Institute of Technology where I teach, and I'm sure also at many other campuses and venues in the metro area. 

More than two hundred people were wounded, three killed, and the thousands of people who were present along Boylston Street were horrified.  On that Marathon Monday in 2013, I watched it all on TV from the comfort of our apartment, thinking that I was merely inconvenienced when, the following Friday, I had to cancel final exams because the city shut down during the search for the suspects. I felt disconnected, for the most part, from the horror. 
In the past year, I've learned that I have only two degrees of separation from two of those who were killed. I have neighbors and friends who went to school with Krystle Campbell in Medford, or whose kids did. I have good friends who live on the same short Dorchester street as the Martin family. A Medford neighbor who ran the Marathon last year was among the crowd who were stopped a mile short of the finish line, unable to communicate with his wife to tell her he was all right. Today I learned that one of my Calculus students, an international student, was called in to a Boston police station and interrogated in the days following the bombing. He seems to be taking it in stride, but I wonder how many other international students were similarly caught up in the confusion and the hunt for those who left the bombs.
It would not be correct to say that the city is OK. For those who were wounded or maimed but survived, recovery has not been easy or effortless.  I was reminded on Tuesday that some of those wearing black, or wearing blue and yellow ribbons, on the Wentworth campus may also have been close to someone who was killed, bereaved, or severely injured. They might have been present, or related to someone who was traumatized in the event or in responding to the wounded. Every ribbon was a reminder to treat people with gentleness and kindness. Maybe it will catch on... who knows?

The Marathon will run again on Patriots' Day, this Monday the 21st, and it remains to be seen how people will feel during this year's event. Some who were traumatized may be triggered by the very sight of the crowds at the finish line. Others will run with a new determination to finish the race. The city has been deeply hurt, but we insist on rising again, with love and mutual support our rallying cry. Our strength is not in brute force, but in the power to believe and endure. We are… Boston strong.  It's a good feeling. 

Today is also Good Friday. The Boston Marathon will run on Monday, the day after Easter. I can’t think of a better illustration of the power and reality of resurrection than the tale of a city’s recovery – still not complete, but very much under way. As a Christian preacher, I am not fond of dwelling on the sufferings of Jesus. I no longer believe in a God who would require a bloody sacrifice of God’s own beloved child as a “substitute” for all the punishment that humankind might “deserve.” The narrative of Jesus’ death and rising is the story of one who lived in cruel times, and was the subject of horrible state-sponsored torture and murder, and it is important to remember that. However, the crucifixion is not the point of the story; the point of the story originally was, and I hope always will be, that Jesus rose from the dead. The Easter story is ultimately a story of hope, a tale of the power of goodness and truth and love.

Our strength lies not in brute force, but in our determination to believe and endure, with love and mutual support as our rallying cry. And so may it be for us all.

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