So once again we are plunged into it. Another news flash, another banner of “BREAKING NEWS” across the TV screens, another series of jumpy videos from the scene, another ceaseless round of eyewitness reports, rumors, speculation, and instant deep analysis of the psyche of America: who would do such a thing at such a time and place?
You would think that by now we would be used to it, but we never are. We can anticipate the reactions on a general scale, but there is always something jarring about the realization that once again one or more among us has done something deliberately horrible to other people. There will be vapid attempts by good people to explain the why, but it’s never the real answer, and when we don’t know who, we reach for the simple one: it must be this other group that hates us, or it must have been a loner with a tormented soul who could never explain why and didn’t survive to give us an answer. We can never accept that it is someone among us, someone who stood behind us to buy a donut or passed on the street while we walked the dog, not ever noticing them because neither of us is particularly noticeable.
The realization can make us paranoid; we can’t trust each other any more, we can’t feel safe. So we dump our soda bottles at the airport, we wonder about the guy with the beard and the hat, we try to come up with some way to rationalize our fear and shake our heads and remember when it was okay to run down the airport concourse to meet a passenger or ride the bus and not feel queasy about the person muttering to himself as he reads a book written in a script we can’t read. But it’s only the weakest among us who have the strength to carry that hopelessness. Most of us have the will and the determination not to let that terror overwhelm us.
No one speaking on TV or writing on a blog yet knows why a spring afternoon on a street in Boston was turned from a sporting event to a war zone. We trust the people we’ve entrusted our safety to — the police and their agencies — to find the clues that will lead us to an answer, and while we wait we speculate and muse and listen to others, we should know that while all the answers may never be found, we’ll find enough of them to absorb the shock and go on.
As Harry Chapin sang, there are planes to catch and bills to pay. We are a resilient people, and while we hurt and grieve and our step may falter for a moment, we go on, safe in the knowledge that we are safe and cared for; that yesterday people ran to the carnage on Boylston Street, not away; that hundreds of people gave something of themselves — literally gave blood and treasure — to help others who yesterday morning they did not know existed. This is how we absorb the shock: by seeing that in the reflection of the flash of horror, there we are giving and helping and searching to save the ones who need us.