It’s a grim reality that all too often these days we must witness the worst aspects of human nature in order to see the best.
It’s what happened during the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. back in 2001 and the random mass shootings around the country, and now we are living through another attack, this time striking at the heart of an international sporting event in Boston.
As of Tuesday, the death toll from the Boston Marathon bombing stood at three people, including an 8-year-old boy. There were 176 people sent to Boston area hospitals with injuries; 17 of those people were critically injured. Gruesome details of the attack continue to be unnerving.
One Rhode Island state trooper described, in The New York Times, the end of the marathon route, which is normally an area of celebration, as a war zone.
“These runners just finished and they don’t have legs now,” Roupen Bastajian told The Times. “So many of them. There are so many people without legs. It’s all blood. There’s blood everywhere. You got bones, fragments. It’s disgusting.”
A scene like this, caused by another human or group of humans, is the worst of the worst, and it’s caused by the worst human nature has to offer. We all question just how someone could be evil enough to do this to a bunch of innocent people.
Like a lot of people, judging from a range of statements on Twitter, I crossed through a range of emotions as I watched the events unfold on Monday afternoon and evening.
Shock. Anger. Sadness. Rage. Emptiness. Fear.
Who would do this? Why would they do this? Who is to blame? How do we get justice? Will we get justice? What are we going to do to stop this from happening again? Can we stop this from happening again? Is this the dark reality we live in?
Unfortunately, I felt like it was just days ago when we as a country went through this same range of emotions and questions as the tragic events of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting unfolded. How much more of this evil can we take? Frankly, it’s a depressing time we live in right now, and I went to bed Monday night feeling that there wasn’t much hope of things getting any better.
On Tuesday morning, I reluctantly opened my laptop again to get the latest on the attack. No suspects. No answers. Police say the bombs were simple in nature, and that anyone would be capable of making them.
I once again began to file through various news agencies’ photos and videos of the attack, and instead of focusing on the terror of that day, I found myself seeing the random heroic acts of a whole lot of people at the scene.
In one video, just after the explosion occurred, there were a lot of people running away in fear. There were also a lot of people running directly toward the explosion, to help. Men and women went right to work, removing metal fencing to get to victims. Two military men sprang into action right alongside a man in a backwards cap and hooded sweatshirt, who was also scrambling to get to the victims.
Obviously, they didn’t know what was going on. There had been an explosion. There could have been more on the way. Nobody knew how many explosives were stashed in and around that finish line. Yet these people went to work to help others, and they wasted no time in making the decision to do so.
There are plenty of other photos and videos that tell similar stories. There’s one man holding a tourniquet on a woman’s upper thigh. Another shows a man attending to a victim immediately after one of the two blasts. One photo shows a large number of victims on the ground, each one being tended to, some by paramedics, some by ordinary citizens.
In a live video on NBC, there were volunteers with wheelchairs shuttling people out of the finish-line zone to an area where paramedics could reach them. I saw three different people running with wheelchairs, getting people out of there. In one still shot, there’s a woman pushing a wheelchair holding a man with a serious leg wound, while a paramedic holds a tourniquet on his leg.
There are countless other images from the attack telling similar stories. The scene of the explosion was as horrific as it gets, yet there were men and women of all different ages and races bravely going to work to help the person next to them. These were police officers, paramedics, firefighters, race-course volunteers. Citizens from all backgrounds were on deck and ready to help.
In the near term, our focus will remain on the unanswered questions: Who did it? Why? How? But over time, the heroics of these everyday people, who jumped in immediately to help, will live on in our minds.
These stories are similar to those of the firefighters who bravely went into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11. It is their stories that will be retold.
It is their stories that gives us hope there is still more good in this world than evil.