It has been just over three weeks since the bombings at the Boston Marathon and my friend, Caroline, has finally returned home from Faulkner Hospital. Hip-to-toe bandages and a leg brace conceal her lacerations, where shrapnel from the blast had cut straight to her Femur bone. She had run the race herself in past years and, on this Marathon Monday, had been waiting excitedly at the finish line to watch her friends' euphoric moments of human triumph. And then in an instant, everything changed.
Out from under the swelling tide of heartbreak that soon engulfed the city of Boston, beautiful stories of survival, loss, love, strength and solidarity have risen up and spread into the light like an exhale of breath in the deep end of a pool. Many sentiments about the attack seemed driven by a deep sense of pride for our beautiful city, a place we have long called home. Many also consisted of heartfelt “thank you”s for the heroic efforts of first responders, as well as to friends and loved ones for calling, e-mailing or texting them to see if they were okay and for sending their love.
“I feel that we are all victims. I'm only different because I have physical wounds,” Caroline wrote me from her hospital bed. “There are many who are wounded mentally. We have to recognize that visible wounds are not the only ones. It's the mental and emotional ones which are the hardest to recover from.”
Indeed, it will be a long recovery process. That much is certain. So what can we learn from this tragedy and how can we cope? “Humans are innately good,” wrote Caroline. “It's the very small minority that are capable of being ‘bad’ and it's really important to understand what makes them stray from human nature.”
“I've learned [from this tragedy] to accept help,” she continues. “I've always been the type of person to refuse help because I've never wanted anyone to go out of their way for me. People genuinely want to help and that by giving it also, in a way, helps them.”
As a Boston resident for more than 18 years, I think it's true that we can, at times, be a bit rough and tumble. We can exude a fierce independence and are driven toward success. It seems to happen all too often, that the demands of our daily lives – our careers, the big plans for our future – consume us. It sometimes takes an experience of loss or suffering to wake us up again, to remind us of who we are and what we have – to bring out the best in us. We are proud to be tough-rolling, hard-loving New Englanders, like those that spoke out so fervently in the wake of this tragedy about their love of this city, perhaps because it reminds us of ourselves: Beautiful, yet imperfect. We are Boston. And we are innately good. So, live in the moment and spread the love.