My former co-worker and pal, Octavio, ran in the Boston Marathon today. It was how I found out anything was happening. His message on facebook basically read "Not sure what happened at the finish line, but Johanna and I are okay."
And I am grateful that the first thing I knew about what was happening in Boston was that despite the fact that something clearly very bad had happened (and I understood the scale within a minute or two), the one person I knew who could have been right there was all right.
Like all of you, I spent the afternoon trying to work, but really checking news sites and social media, wincing a bit at the folks who clearly came on line to post and had no idea what was happening in the world as they did so. It's a forgivable faux pas in 2013, and I'm not sure that the fact that we've seen it before makes me feel better.
I scrolled through quotes from Mr. Rogers and the other messages shared on Facebook over and over, or retweeted on the twitters until it became an echo chamber. In any other case, it might be one of those things that drives you nuts, but here, today, it's psychic armor.
We're learning, too.
Folks out there in the social media reminded each other not to let the media's early reports rush us like cattle into those narrow chutes of narrative. And somehow we agreed it was all right to not have answers immediately.
We're getting good at this, and I'm not sure that's ideal, but it's better than the talking heads and the pointing fingers (pointing the finger of blame for our karmic retribution seems remote and archaic). Since we saw the Federal building smoldering in Oklahoma City, us Gen Xers have known the feeling in the pit of our stomachs that our parents knew from the assassinations and disasters we saw in movies and read about in class. These days, all of us know how to brace ourselves as cable news goes berserk, the internet lights up and, in the first 24 hours, stories pretending to be facts get passed in front of us like a shell game.
We know the score. Maybe not exactly when it happens in our doorway, but we know it when it when the push alerts come though, the emails arrive and that casual look at a headline stops us in our tracks.
Whether for political reasons or otherwise, the cowardice and cruelty of the bombing is infused with the self-absorbed fantasies of the men who've flown planes into buildings, shot up elementary schools and movie theaters, delivered by someone believing themselves a protagonist in a delusional narrative who honestly believes that somehow the murder of innocent people fulfills some story in their head in which they are a hero.
It doesn't matter what the perpetrator believed they were achieving - they failed. What I saw were police literally running into action, paramedics and doctors who signed up for the marathon who thought they might get case of dehydration during the race finding themselves in an unthinkable situation, demonstrating what it means to have decency and courage. Athletes who went from running 26 miles to donate blood. Bystanders leaping into action to assist the wounded. People opening their homes to take in those who were stranded.
Tonight, baseball was played. People carried on. We might have a few months of some folks who have second thoughts about joining crowds in public, bags taken into a stadium might get a second look, or we might have a few new procedures for security to follow, but whatever they thought they were doing, the attacker gained nothing and just managed to show us, one more time, what people can be when times when times turn dark, no matter how abruptly.
Tonight, tomorrow, for as long as it takes, we're all with Boston, and for the good in us that I truly believe will always shine in these moments of darkness.