When I heard the news of the Boston Marathon bombing on NPR yesterday, like most of us, I was horrified and saddened. I still can’t wrap my mind around why anyone would want to kill and maim innocent people who were there simply to celebrate a fun, venerated community event.
I immediately thought of my friend and fellow musician, Cory Maxfield, a flutist I’ve played with regularly in the Salt Lake Symphony, a woodwind quintet and with whom I performed a duet for her master’s recital. This was Cory’s third Boston Marathon. As it turns out, she was very close to the finish line when the bombs detonated. Here’s what she wrote for her Facebook friends:
“As I was running the Boston Marathon today, I was thinking about how I would put up a nice FB post about the beautiful weather, the fine rock and roll I was listening to and how thrilled I was to be here for the third time. Unfortunately and unbelievably, I found myself just a few yards from the finish line when one bomb went off in front of me, and one behind me. Some people died and many were injured and this magnificent event was ruined. I was able to run through the smoke to the finish line, possibly one of the last runners to finish before Copley Square became a crime scene. I still can’t believe it.”
While I’m happy that Cory is okay, I’m horrified at the idea that anyone would want to perpetrate such a cruel, calloused and cowardly anonymous act of violence on scores of innocent people. This unspeakably awful event and others like it—Newtown, Aurora, 9/11—breed fear and quite often, demands for retaliatory violence. Because events such as these make the news—as they should—we can fall into the trap of giving up on humanity and defining ourselves by our worst capacities.
We are all complex beings, capable of harm, yes, but also capable of extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity. In the face of the horrific Boston bombings, I’m heartened by the stories of acts of courage and generosity by the people of Boston: runners going straight to the hospitals to give blood and tearing off their clothing to fashion tourniquets for bleeding victims, restaurants offering food, thousands of residents opening their homes to strangers.
Patton Oswalt, a writer and comedian I only just became aware of, pointed out in his now-viral comments that—despite the fact that they get a lot of attention—people who perpetrate acts of violence are only a small fraction of humanity. He says, “…when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.’”