Like everybody else, I’ve been thinking about what happened in Boston this week. It’s hard not to. My heart goes out to the victims, their families, and all the individuals who have been affected by the event.
Meanwhile, it’s been instructive to watch the people I know here make connections with the tragedy there. In some cases the connection happened because they once lived in Boston. Or know someone who once lived in Boston. Or know someone who lives in Boston right now.
Or maybe they’ve just returned from a trip to Boston. Or plan to visit soon. Or hope to visit there someday.
Or maybe they’ve been a lifelong fan of a Boston team — the Sox, the Celtics, the Pats, the Bruins.
Or maybe they’ve read enough books (think of novels written by Robert Parker and Dennis Lehane) or seen enough movies and TV shows set in Boston to make the city feel as familiar as their own.
In some cases people connected with the tragedy because they’ve run the Boston Marathon themselves or know someone who was running there this week. Or maybe they’ve never run Boston, but they’ve run other marathons.
I thought about my own experience running the St. George Marathon last fall. I have never done anything harder, and when I staggered across the finish line I was overcome with equal measures of pain and pride. It was an important moment for me — the realization of a longtime and specific goal. As I watched coverage of the tragedy this week, I asked myself, “What if my experience — the one I had trained and sacrificed for — had ended like that instead?”
The point is this: Consciously or unconsciously, most people here — and everywhere across the United States — found a way to connect with the tragedy in Boston. And by making that connection, no matter how tenuous, we all made what happened there personal.
It happened to them.
It happened to us.
If there was anything good to come out of the horror, it was the sight of countless individuals — runners, spectators, first responders, medical personnel — rushing to assist each other, to care for each other, to be the shelter of another.
It was a moment where all those barriers that frequently divide people — class, race, age, gender, religious and political preferences — disappeared. Evaporated. Vanished. They simply didn’t matter.
All that mattered was that fellow human beings needed help.
The images from that day stand in marked contrast to what we usually see on the various cable news networks where people on all sides take a position and attempt to shout down and even demonize anyone who disagrees with them.
It’s unrealistic — and frankly undesirable — to hope American citizens will one day see eye to eye on divisive issues. Things like life experience, temperament, education and even regional history naturally make us view our world through different prisms.
But we can at least make a commitment to always connect in some small personal way with the humanness of others.
Just as so many people did on that terrible day in Boston.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.