sj emailed me yesterday because she knows I can’t check social media while I’m at work. She let me know there’d been two explosions at the Boston Marathon. No real news yet. Reports of possible severed limbs. Chaos.
She knows things like this bother me. She didn’t want me to be blindsided on the drive home, or by one of my coworkers. I love her for that. I love her for being that person for me.
When I got home, I made myself read the reports. Watch the videos. Read my Facebook feed, people who were looking for loved ones in Boston. We’re only two and a half hours from Boston, where I live. I’ve never been, but it’s somewhere I want to visit quite badly. I’ve always wanted to go to Boston. It seems like a magical city to me. And you know how much I love magic.
I noticed what Patton Oswalt did in the videos, in between my sobbing, watching runners falling, tripping over themselves to get away from the noise, the smoke, hearing the screaming start, the faint and horrified “Oh. Oh, oh my God. Oh,” from the newscaster who’d been planning on filming nothing more than the finish line of the marathon for some background footage.
People were running toward the explosion.
People were running toward the explosion even though there could have been more explosions. They didn’t know what had happened. It didn’t matter.
And not running toward the explosion once the screams started, and not running toward the explosion once people started dragging them over, or when people started calling for help. People IMMEDIATELY started running toward the explosion. One man said, in a thick Bawston accent that sounded like the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard in my life, “There are people that are going to need our help over there,” and immediately headed over. He didn’t say it to anyone. There was no one around him. He was saying it to himself. He was telling himself what to do. He was explaining to himself, this is what we do, when we’re needed, because there really isn’t another viable option right now.
And the people, the firemen, the National Guardsmen, the policemen, and the people who were there – runners, bystanders, just everyday people – worked together to pull down the barricades, to make it easier for emergency vehicles and EMTs to get to the wounded. Everyone became a united force. Everyone knew what they had to do. Sadly, it’s become a thing: we have experience with this now. We know what to do when the bomb goes off or the plane crashes or the man with the gun and the dead, dead eyes enters the crowded room. We’ve learned. It’s not something we should have to have learned, but it’s something we collectively have.
The news is still being guarded. By the time you read this, we might know what happened, but for now, people are saying it’s terrorism, and people are saying we don’t know yet. People are saying there’s a subject in custody, people are saying it’s just too soon to say anything. People are saying two more bombs were found before they exploded. People are saying there is video of a man with a backpack leaving the bombs in the area.
People say a lot of things, when these things happen. It’s one of the things that people are good at. We talk because we don’t know what else we can do. We talk because it keeps the gibbering maniacal panic at bay.
But for all of the talking, I like what Patton Oswalt has to say.
There are more of us than there are of them.
There are more of us that run toward the explosions to see what we can do, that hide the children in the cupboards and face the shooter with our hands spread and resolution stubborn in our eyes, that run into the burning building to bring out just one more person, if possible, just one more, just one more.
There are so, so many more of us on this beautiful, amazing, hope-filled planet.
You can see us all around. We’re in the small kindnesses; the letting of people into traffic, the kind smile of a stranger, the holding of a door, the compliment when needed but unanticipated; the bigger ones, the offer to listen, the helping each other up, the thank you for being in my life, the telling someone you love them, no matter what, for always, for forever. The small kindnesses, the bigger ones, the huge heroism. To some people, they are all the same thing. You never know if your kindness, if your hand reaching out for theirs, is the thing that saved someone’s life.
There is a lot of darkness and a lot of sadness out there right now. It’s warranted. It’s a scary time. Every day, something else. Every day, something that seems like one more step on that descent into madness.
When it gets too much, though, look at all the heroes. They’re all around you. They are infinity times infinity and they stretch on forever.
And make damn sure you’re one of them.