One Truth About Tragedy

Readers, surely, not every horrifying event begs a Free-Range analysis, but I did want to say one thing about the Boston Marathon bombings. Beyond simply expressing my disgust and sadness, I’d note that, like so many tragedies, this one was absolutely unpredictable. No one attending did anything remotely ill-advised or imprudent, yet some found themselves in danger’s way nonetheless.

Let’s remember this lightning-bolt quality when tragedies befall others, especially children. We do have a way, often, of thinking bad things happen only to the children of bad parents. When a child is hurt and a parent was not supervising, the go-to emotion is anger at the parent. Blame feels satisfying. It gives some order to the universe.

But the universe, as we were just so hideously reminded, is not always ordered. So it’s best to refrain from blaming anyone suffering a loss. – L

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19 Responses to One Truth About Tragedy

  1. Emily April 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    I was just talking to a friend of mine about this. My Internet was down for most of today, and I was out and about for a good part of the afternoon/early evening, so I didn’t know about the Boston Marathon bombing until about nine o’clock, when I got home. Anyway, my friend who told me about it, said that there probably wouldn’t be another Boston Marathon next year, and maybe the tradition would die out completely. I think this is sad, because even though I’m not a marathoner, I think it’s wrong to completely scrap such a positive thing, just because of a freak terrorist attack, after so many Boston Marathons have gone off without a hitch.

  2. Liam April 15, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    Lenore, I thought you’d appreciate this article as it almost sounds like it was written by you: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/04/the-boston-marathon-bombing-keep-calm-and-carry-on/275014/

    /Keeping Calm(ish) in Boston

  3. Lynette April 15, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    I disagree. The marathon with be back next year and it will be as strong as ever. If one thing can be said about runners, we are a determined lot.

  4. Sarah in WA April 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    I saw a post from the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon series on Facebook today:

    “We were shocked and saddened to learn of the tragedy in Boston. Our hearts and thoughts are with the victims, their families and all those affected.

    In the wake of this tragedy, we believe there is strength in numbers. As race organizers, we will continue to prepare and coordinate with our partners, both government agencies and law enforcement, in order to demonstrate that the running community is still running strong. We run to honor those who participated in and supported the Boston Marathon, and to encourage all who do good through endurance sports to ROCK ON.”

    I love this attitude. It’s far better (and more honorable to those harmed today, IMO) to keep going. I really hope they don’t cancel the Boston Marathon in the future. I know it’s a cliche to say, “We can’t let the terrorists win,” but in this case, it’s true.

  5. Boston Girl April 15, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Boston is the oldest Marathon in the country ~ this is it’s 117th year. The BAA *know* this is a risk, and they, along with their partner John Hancock, work in tandem with city & state officials, EMS, FF, PD, and anyone else they need. They have prepared for; drilled for; trained for; and taken precautions for just such a catastrophe. As evidenced by the way they handled things today (stopping the Marathon, re-routing the runners down alternative routes to a “safe zone” etc), it showed. Kudos to the BAA, the first responders, and the people of my great state. “Well I love that dirty water… Boston, you’re my home.”

  6. Russell April 16, 2013 at 12:19 am #

    I just hope we don’t do what we always do…let the bastards win by ruining road racing with idiotic “security” measures.

    Long distance road racing is one of the few sports left where spectators can get within inches of the elite pros…for free. People pull up chairs, coolers, tables with snacks, EZ-up canopies, stereos (or they play music live), etc. They make signs. They cheer. They give kisses. They ring cowbells. They dress up in hilarious costumes.

    And the amazing thing is they cheer just as much…or even more for an overweight middle-aged IT manager running a 9:15/mile pace…or a 13:30/mile pace as they do for an elite Kenyan Olympic gold medalist running a 5:30/mile.

    Please…let’s not ruin that.

    As an aside…one thing that stuck me when I was watching the video from today was there seemed to be just as many people running TOWARDS the blast as away from it. These people are the true heros who are America’s true heart and soul.

  7. Anonymous April 16, 2013 at 1:27 am #

    The quote below is a facebook post from someone in my feed who was invited to speak on a local news segment tonight regarding the tragic events in Boston. I thought it was a joke at first. Nope.

    “If you love your kids, don’t bring them into large crowds at high profile events. Yes, it stinks that you have to make these kind of choices, but the reality is that there are a lot of bad people out there. If you want to see the action, watch it on TV from the safety of your home. Thank you KEYE for helping me spread the word. Safety is not always convenient.”

  8. mollie April 16, 2013 at 3:18 am #

    I love your post, Lenore, and I would add this: I see consistent order in the Universe, myself. Or, rather, I trust there is order. It might not be my version of it, but I trust that it’s there.

    And I agree, trying to wade through the seeming randomness of the Universe from our narrow human perspective by assigning blame and judgement is a tragic way to find a sense of peace and acceptance, since it doesn’t really seem to get anyone there in a meaningful way.

    At times like these, I am so grateful for the support I have received in my life to guide me toward the more lasting peace that comes from a sense of faith and acceptance and away from the “quick fix” of blame and judgement. I think of it as the difference between eating jelly beans for breakfast or having a really nutritious meal. One is sweet and seems to do the job, but the inevitable crash comes every time. The other is nourishing and sustains life.

    Here’s hoping we can focus on what we value when things go in a way we don’t like, and move toward acceptance rather than fear, blame, and knee-jerk, reactive “quick fix solutions” and strategies.

  9. Altissima April 16, 2013 at 3:56 am #

    I have seen the following quote around Facebook etc today: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Mr Rogers ..
    I think to is comforting for both parents and children to keep these sentiments in mind. Bad things happen sometimes. Bad people do bad things sometimes. But look around, you can see that the majority of people are good people. There are many people you can trust to do the right thing. After a disaster, you can see many many people helping those in need. People are wonderful. Communities care for each other. This is the world we live in..

  10. BL April 16, 2013 at 6:36 am #

    “If you want to see the action, watch it on TV from the safety of your home.”

    There are about 8000 home invasions per day in North America. 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during these invasions. I’ll bet marathons are safer.

  11. catspaw73 April 16, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Big hugs to all those in Boston and anyone else whos been affected. Kia kaha (stay strong).

  12. Tsu Dho Nimh April 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    one thing that stuck me when I was watching the video from today was there seemed to be just as many people running TOWARDS the blast as away from it.

    Yes … in almost all the early pictures you see as many non-professionals helping as pros (no gloves = probably civilian; gloves = professional or trained first responder who always carries a pair for car wrecks etc.) . And a lot of makeshift but functional bandages on people leaving the scene.

    Basic first aid is enough to keep a lot of people alive until you can hand them over to the pros.

  13. Eran Arbel April 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    My guiding principle on the subject, from Babylon 5.

    Marcus Cole: I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?’ So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.

  14. Amanda Matthews April 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Wait, what? How is no one to blame for this? Of course, it is not the parents’ fault for letting their children be outside, but it is the bombers’ fault for doing the bombing! The bombers COULD predict this, because they planned for this to happen! This is not similar to getting hit by lightning, not some random occurrence in the universe that the stars aligned to just happen a person was in the way – this was something where someone PLANNED for it to happen exactly there, while there would be people to be in the way.

    Should we live our life in fear because of this, stop going outside and only watch such things on tv? No. But let’s not pretend here – there ARE some messed up people in the world. There IS someone to blame here. The odds of encountering such a person are small, but to pretend they don’t exist at all would make lives less safe. It would be like refusing to have fire alarms in your house, refusing to teach your kids what to do during a fire, refusing to teach your kids fire safety (like don’t leave paper on the stove) because you don’t want to live your life in fear of a fire. If lightning strikes your house and sets it on fire, that is random and unpredictable… but if someone purposely sets your house on fire, then they are to blame. If someone sees someone else setting your house on fire and says nothing, they are to blame too. To pretend they aren’t, does all of society a disservice!

    Someone set those bombs, and others probably knew about it but told no one… and those people are to blame. Blame SHOULD be placed, because it is actually deserved in this case! Yes, it should be placed where it belongs – on the people that did this and/or were silent about it, not on the people that were simply living their lives. But don’t pretend this was some random, unordered happening in the universe. Because if random bombs occurring in the universe – not by any people, not having anyone to blame, with no possibility of anyone predicting them – going off at races was actually a possibility, then I might have to say yes, stay home and watch it on tv.

  15. Papilio April 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    @Amanda: That is pretty much what I thought when I first read this post: that a terrorist attack doesn’t seem very ‘universe’ to me.
    Then I read the next post. Then this one again. And I think I kinda get it: sure, those terrorists knew what they were doing. But for all the rest of us, there is no way to predict where a bomb might go off or where an Anders Breivik might show up. So that causes a similar fear and reaction as lightning: trying to avoid something that is very rare and, still, very unpredictable.

  16. Michele April 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Thanks for stating this gentle reminder so eloquently and succinctly. May the victims rest in peace.

  17. amy April 16, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    Thank you for this post. I can think of about a dozen caring, loving parents who have lost children to accidents.

  18. Donna April 16, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    @Amanda – Lenore clearly means predictable by the people affected. Obviously EVERY criminal act has someone to blame and THOSE people predicted the behavior. But the victims did not nor should they suffer any blame.

    I am going out to dinner tonight. I suppose it is remotely possible that an earthquake could hit and I could die. It is also remotely possible that a shooter could also come in and kill everyone. Both are equally unpredictable to ME. I am not more at fault if I am killed by a shooter than if I am killed in an earthquake. The fact that one is a force of nature controlled by nobody and one is a criminal act controlled by the criminal makes no difference as it relates to me and my blame.

    So I will go to dinner and say tofa (goodbye) to a colleague who is departing the island. If I die, it will be an unfortunate, unpredictable tragic event. And that is true whether the death be from an earthquake or a crazed criminal looking to wipe out the entire prosecutor’s and public defender’s offices in one fell swoop.

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