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Boston Marathon runner Ken Thomson, of Alpharetta, Ga, is interviewed by television reporters as he arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson airport after running in the Boston Marathon on Tuesday, in Atlanta. The deadly explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday killed three and injured more than 140 people.
A woman jogs near a statue of George Washington at Boston Common on Tuesday, one day after bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
When something happens such as what happened in Boston on Monday, our first thoughts can’t help but be somewhat selfish.
Are our friends and loved ones OK?
This is one reason why cellphone coverage in Boston went haywire Monday in the aftermath of the shocking bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Friends and family in Boston were frantically trying to reach loved ones who were still on the course.
And those of us following our friends and loved ones from afar were also reaching out.
As I thought about my friends who were participating in the 117th running of what may be this nation’s most iconic road race, and waited for news that they were OK, I wrestled with shock and disbelief — just as all of us did.
How could this happen?
Who could do such a thing?
The sad reality of this world is that bad people are going to try to create pain.
We have come to know this.
Some are terrorists with specific agendas.
Others are simply lunatics.
We don’t know yet what the case was here.
But we do know that terrorists typically select targets that are representative of the power that the terrorists despise, though that’s not always the case.
Attacks on symbols of the military or capitalism are shocking and disturbing.
But when the killers hit the innocent, the happy, the triumphant, it verges on the incomprehensible.
About 30 minutes before the blasts, Shawn Fortner was running down the finishing stretch, on her way to crossing the line with a great time of 3:43:55.
She was wiped out.
You can’t run 26.2 miles and not be.
Yet she was elated.
You can’t run 26.2 miles and not be.
Not when you see the finish line, and when you hear the crowds going crazy.
And they do, from the time the elites cross until hours and hours later when the stragglers stiffly limp home.
Fortner said the crowd was four to five people deep along the barriers. Still there, still cheering long after the stars had held their press conferences and been whisked back to their hotels.
As we’ve watched the coverage of the carnage, we’ve seen the colorful international flags blowing in the wind in the billowing smoke.
Fortner, tired as she was, noticed them as she was running. And she thought about how cool it was that people from so many nations could get together on this day for this brutally difficult test of physical endurance.
Boston is an extreme example, but that kind of celebratory mood is there at the finish line of every race, even tiny neighborhood 5Ks.
Those events, too, are about a diverse mix of people challenging themselves, challenging each other and celebrating.
It’s an addictive atmosphere, which is why so many of us willingly participate in an activity where one of the sayings is, “Our sport is your sport’s punishment.”
And it’s an atmosphere that’s the polar opposite of the horrifying scene we saw unfolding Monday afternoon.
We will soon learn the how, but may never know the who and why.
We already know that nothing is sacred, that no target is off limits.
We also know that living in fear is no way to live.
So runners will keep running, many toeing the line for Saturday’s Blue Ridge Marathon still reeling in pain and shock and disbelief.
They will keep trying to qualify for the Boston marathon.
And when they get there and run down that final stretch in front of the massive crowds that cannot be scared away, they will be elated.
Which is as it should be.
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