At Boston College, a co-ed posted an invitation to her Facebook friends to join her in walking the last several miles of Monday’s ill-fated marathon from the point where the police, after the bombing, had held back the throng. In an hour, 600 “friends” had committed to the walk. By the end of the evening, 6,000 had committed to finish the proxy race. Hers was one of hundreds of acts that redeemed that tragic day, giving it hope and promise.
As a temporary resident of the Boston area, living just a block above the city line, I was moved by the brave hearts of Boston, who faced with violence, showed courage, compassion and mercy. We all were buoyed up by the sight of the first responders and bystanders tearing down the fences to reach the dying and wounded.
And they were accompanied by many others: the surgeon who continued running to his hospital to care for the wounded, the coach who tended to at least ten victims and then fingered his rosary beads, bystanders who tore up their clothes to make tourniquets and bandages and staunched the wounds of the injured, the EMTs and first responders who responded as they were trained to do but also in exemplary fashion saved lives and limbs, and the countless residents who opened their homes to runners and their visitors.
On an afternoon darkened by senseless violence, the brave hearts of Boston made their city, as President Obama said, “a state of grace.” Bostonians didn’t cling to their grief and nurse their victimhood. Sometimes, as in Dennis Lehane’s gritty op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, they declared they would not be daunted by terrorism. But in many ways they expressed a spirit of hopefulness that provides a new beginning for America in our confrontation with terror.
The songs that rang out in support of Boston signaled that new beginning. What better testimony to renewal than New York Yankee fans singing “Sweet Caroline,” the informal Red Sox anthem, to show their solidarity with Beantown? Or, the soloist at last night’s Bruins’ game who ceded his role to have the crowd sing as one “The Star Spangled Banner”?
Governor Deval Patrick, in the memorial service at Holy Cross Cathedral Thursday morning, reminded the mourners America was invented in Boston. This week in Boston, America threw off the lasting trauma of 9/11 as well as that of Monday’s marathon, to be re-born anew.
Drew Christiansen, S. J.is the former editor of America. He is currently a visiting scholar at Boston College.