The Boston Marathon was bombed yesterday. That will be news to no one. I’m also quite sure that during and after all of this, I’m not the only one who has been thinking about what I’d do if this happened to me.
Some people rushed into the smoky aftermath of an explosion to help, not even hesitating. One uninjured bystander took off his belt and handed it to a man who then used it as a tourniquet on someone lying on the ground. Some men were cursing in thick Boston accents even as they were heading toward all the carnage without stopping to consider whether or not they were putting themselves in danger.
This warms and humbles me.
But the story that affected me the most was from a bystander who said they were only feet from the explosion. The woman recounts that her husband immediately pushed their two children to the ground and lay over them. Then another man, a man they didn’t know, lay over them as well.
Was he trying to protect the two children better than one body could manage? Was he trying to protect the father who was trying to protect his children? Maybe he wasn’t trying to do anything at all, it was simply his first instinct to shelter someone in danger, no matter what.
The thing that amazes me about this story is that the act of shielding another with your body is an acknowledgement that they are still in danger, that you know there’s a very real chance that any person in that space could be badly injured or killed and you are choosing to make your body the target, for that to be you. That, on some level, the father and the other man were thinking, “Take me, not the kids. I’ve had 30 or 40 or 50 years, they still have their lives ahead of them. I might die or suffer, but I choose that to protect them.”
When you remember the senseless violence and tragic loss of lives that happened yesterday, remember this too. That there are those who will plant bombs to hurt and kill innocent people. But there are more who will stand up in the face of that and say, “No. My act of compassion is bigger than any bomb you can ever make.”
And no one can blow up, crash, kill, or take that away from us. Ever.