4.17.2013

Reflections on faith in human nature

I've been in a funk for the last two days since the Boston Marathon bombings. I don't feel right about putting up the post I had originally planned before addressing this, since it's been so heavy on my heart. It just doesn't feel right. A huge part of me is deeply saddened- for the victims, those injured, those affected, and for this changing world I hope to bring children into someday. The country I knew as a child has changed drastically over the last 30 years. My husband and I were discussing this at length yesterday- and it seemed we had a moment of silence between us contemplating the fact, and mourning it. 

I've been living in Australia now for almost 6 months. I have lived abroad now through three major tragedies in the United States, including: Hurricane Katrina (during the time I was a Peace Corps Volunteer), the Newtown shooting, and now the Boston Marathon bombings. It's hard when people in your home country are suffering. Your first reaction is that you want to be there, how to help, you want answers, and you stay up to all hours of the morning to hear press conferences and presidential speeches. You immediately email all your family just to touch base and tell them you love them. You are reminded of the fragile nature of life and in that moment, it seems to smack you right in the face.

This tragedy hit home really hard, and I know why. Officially last July, I married into a family of runners. My father-in-law it seems is constantly preparing for a marathon or road race, running nine miles, in the snow if he has to, on a regular basis. My sister-in-law actually coordinates and plans large road races and has run the Boston Marathon herself in the past. My husband and his two brothers who all ran cross-country in high school, still run races as much as they can now. I had the pleasure of running my first 5K two summers ago. I was nervous, excited, and ran the entire race with my sister-in-law by my side. I got my first taste of what running a race like that felt like. It was amazing!

On Monday morning (Australia time) Sunday night (USA time), I watched the live press conference President Obama gave. and I cried. I cried hard. I saw my own beautiful family in all the faces of the runners and spectators of the marathon. I spent that morning online reading as much as I could to try to find answers at to what could have happened, who could have done this?! I came across a beautiful quote by Kathrine Switzer who famously ran in the 1967 Boston Marathon.

"If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon". -Kathrine Switzer


At that time, the marathon was all-male, women were not allowed to run. She registered as K.V. Switzer, showed up in big baggy sweats, was given the bib number 261, and set out to run the marathon. One of the race officials, saw her, ran to rip her bib number off, and shouted "Get the hell out of my race!". You can see from the photos that her boyfriend, at the time, and male companions shoved him out of the way. It made headline news across the world the next day. I love this photo, the faces, the energy of it all. What was striking to me was the hate you could see in the man's face as he raced toward Kathrine and tried to remove her from the race. Did he really think that by ripping her bib number off, that would stop her from continuing to run? And why did he think the Boston Marathon was "his race"?

As I waited and still wait for answers on who could have committed such a horrible crime, I felt like I saw the answers in this photo. It doesn't matter what they look like, man, woman, skin color, what their purpose was, what extremist belief they might subscribe to, I know it was someone who is full of hate. The person(s) who committed this horrific crime selfishly view the world as "their world". Like this incident in the photo, the Boston Marathon bombings also made front page news across the world and have also become an incredible example of humans, strangers taking care of one another in a crisis. After completely exhausting themselves from running over 26 miles (42km), people didn't walk to help others that day, they ran. I can't help but continue to have faith in human nature.