I don’t want to be a part of history anymore.
That is what most of thought when we were kids, right? We wanted to be a part of history. We wanted to be there. We wanted to look back and feel like we were involved, that we made a difference, that we had a say.
My memories about 9/11 are there, but they are faded and aged by time. My recollections of Hurricane Katrina bring back thoughts of a distant disaster—a picture of a water-soaked world far away from the deserts of Arizona. The journalist inside me, for the latter part of my life, wanted to taste history. No longer.
Details are still coming in about the bombings in Boston. The numbers might be comparatively small, but they are still growing. The injuries keep coming in. The crisis grows. Incidents seem to be creeping beyond the boundaries of the marathon—not much is certain. What also is not certain is how we will feel about this day in months and years down the road. Unfortunately for all of us, we know how we feel right now.
I was sitting in class when my phone buzzed. It was ESPN—something about explosions at the marathon. My first thought was that there had been an accident. Uh oh. I went to their website, but their meager story showed that they knew little about what had happened. Maybe someone else knew. I texted a good friend of mine and searched around. The New York Times had little to add, and MSN was not much better.
I looked to Facebook—someone could have found something I missed. My buddy texts me back, he found footage from the marathon’s own feed of the finish line. As I was about to search again, I saw the first sign of trouble. Someone had posted on Facebook that two bombs had been detonated at the marathon. I double-checked the reports and there was nothing about an IED or a bomb or anything. She had assumed from the term “explosions.”
Within 30 minutes, the Associated Press quoted a woman who described the experience with, It just blew. Just a big bomb, a loud boom.”
Within the hour, MSNBC brought on a terrorism analyst.
Within 90 minutes, CNN name-dropped Al Qaeda.
Within two hours, the New York Post detailed that a Saudi man had been detained, and then almost immediately deleted the report.
When I was in Boy Scouts, the first thing they always told us to do in an emergency was, of course, not to panic. America’s news outlets, voices of reason, candidness, and level-headed reporting, all panicked. What are viewers at home supposed to do when a journalist, figures who we are supposed to trust and rely on for information, are spewing blind accusations of conspiracies and calculations and revived terrorist cells? It is irresponsible. It is desperate. It is sad, really.
Look where we are. Our safest places no longer feel safe. Our homes, our schools, our movie theaters—all have become reminders of despicable violence and indescribable pain. Now, the finish line of a marathon, a place of victory and triumph, hard work and perseverance, renewed hope and strengthened courage, is just another potential killing ground. This is the United States—the country where your ancestors and my ancestors came for a better life. No one expected this culture of fear and panic. No one asked for this. That is what we have though.
It is not your fault, and it is not CNN or MSNBC’s fault either. We are a product of a world where technology, laws, and other developments have brought threats into our lives that we simply did not think were possible before. America has adapted to the times, and as a result we have responses like we did today—wild theories that this is them or this is that. The unknown is now our deepest fear. We have more to fear now than fear itself.
Events like today make us feel vulnerable. When the people we rely on cannot help us, it can feel like all we are doing is sitting here and waiting for more horrible things to happen. It sucks.
We learned today an unfortunate truth: we still scare easily. This was a horrible thing, to be certain, but that is no excuse to finger-point and scare people even further. Fortunately, as we are so fond of saying these days, we have the capacity to change.
We hit a wall today late in the race, and now we need to find our second wind. We can turn this into a lesson of what modern times have done to the American psyche. The world is a different kind of dangerous now, but we can adapt. We can pray that there will be no next time, but in case there is, we can handle it with calm heads, fast feet, and steady hands.
America has been hit harder than this. This country was born from battles, and right now, this is just the next one. We can choose to be haunted by this, or we can choose to pick ourselves up and look at that finish line. It is still there. Maybe it is farther than a lot of us thought, but it is still there all the same.
This place is different, but it is still worth fighting for. We have put a lot of heart into this—sweat has been spent, blood has shed, and tears have flowed. Now, let’s finish this. Let’s finish the race.