A still shot from the video of the rendition of the national anthem by Bostonians at the Bruins game on Thursday. See the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUr0Y3kAiBw
By Heidi Marttila-Losure
The journalist in me feels drawn to keep up on the latest developments on the Boston bombings, and the parent in me wants to turn the whole thing off—so there’s less of a chance my children will hear the horrifying graphic details, but also so I don’t have to think too hard about how devastating it would be to lose an 8-year-old. A lot of parenting is knowing what horrible things could possibly happen to your child, doing what you can to prevent the worst of it—and then willfully putting the rest out of your mind so you don’t project all those fears onto your children.
Even with my sporadic news consumption on the tragedy, I have fought back tears twice in response to news reports—and neither time was because of the details of the act itself, or even of the selfless first responders (professional and otherwise) who responded in the aftermath.
The first was this report on National Public Radio on Tuesday, about the people who were not connected to the bombing in any direct way but wanted to help:
Runners from around the country pledged on social media to wear race shirts to work today, in solidarity with the marathon runners. And in the Boston area, thousands of residents have offered up spare bedrooms for the families or friends of the injured through a Google document titled “I Have a Place to Offer.” It was created by the website Boston.com.
BLOCK: Zachary Miller, from the Boston suburb of Newton, wrote this: Can offer room, meals, and pick up-drop off anywhere a car can go.
SIEGEL: And there’s this from Laura Keeler in the neighborhood Jamaica Plain: Guest room and two couches available to those who need a place. Very friendly dog for lots of post-marathon hugs.
BLOCK: Just two of the more than 5,000 offers of accommodation and support to those affected by the bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon yesterday.
Think about that: All those people, who are not professional first responders, or wealthy, or special in any way, really—offering up what something from what they have. It’s such a powerful idea, not just for this one tragedy, but as a response to so many other injustices in the world. What if we all looked around and found some way to respond to a need with “I Have Something to Offer”?
The second was this video of Bostonians singing the national anthem at Thursday’s Boston Bruin’s hockey game. I love mass choir in general—for anyone who has participated in one, you know that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts: A group of mediocre singers can come together to make a phenomenal choir. You can probably assume that among this stadium of hockey fans are not all that many professional singers—and yet, their voices together are evocative and powerful. One singer’s voice alone wouldn’t carry far in that big space, and it might waver or crack or veer from the pitch, but when people raise their voices together, each singer is supported by the voice next to him or her. Together, their voices can shake the walls. Even their Bah-ston accent comes through in their unified rendition of our national song.
It got me thinking about what really motivates us as human beings. One of my Facebook friends, after news of the bombings, wrote, “I despair for the human race.” And if we think too much about whoever did this, that response is natural.
But take a look at the power that those other two responses represent: Giving of our homes, or lifting up our voices. They show that the much more common human longing is to be part of something greater than ourselves—especially when that greater result is something helpful and good and right.
I don’t know how this affects how we deal with our challenges in the Dakotas. Unlike in the aftermath of a bombing, when it is clear what is good and what is heinous, we don’t always agree on what is good and what is bad in our society. That’s likely because most choices result in some mixture of the two.
But I think that the Bostonians’ response shows us that our human desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves is a powerful force. Maybe we can figure out a way to use that power improve our communities, if we provide people with a way to feel that communal strength.
I find myself responding differently to this bombing than I did to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: Then I, and really we as a nation, spent a lot of time dwelling on who was behind it, what motivated them, and how we were negatively affected as a nation by it. Now, I and many other writers are thinking much more about how strong we are as a nation even in the face of tragedy. We have the resolve of Bostonians to thank for that.
Here’s hoping we can carry forward that strength of common purpose in our own communities.