Our family was shaken by the horror, albeit briefly. But a few minutes can seem like eternity when you are in the dark about a loved one. Our daughter-in-law, Stephanie, had just finished her run in the Boston Marathon when the Chechen cowards detonated the first of two bombs that terrorized the city.
An entire nation would eventually segue from fear into relief. In Stephanie’s case, the immediate effect of the bombings was she was inconvenienced — but little more. Not so for many others in Boston.
There was nothing but tragedy for those with a direct link to the blast — those who lost limbs and in three cases, those who lost their lives. A city was put on edge. Every post-bombing minute was affiliated with stress — all brought about by people who perpetrate such acts in the name of culture and religion.
To think that there are millions out there who believe if you are an American, it is okay to take your life. When you delve into such issues, you are reminded there were those in our country’s none-too-distant history who reserved the same type of hate for black Americans. We must ask the question: how different are they from the Chechens of Boston?
To delve further, if an American smart bomb precisely hits an enemy structure and takes out a terrorist but collateral damage brings loss of life or limb, how can we be not viewed as villains by those affected directly?
I remember a conversation with a German businessman in West Berlin in the '70s. As a small boy, he had to go underground to seek shelter from intense Allied bombing during World War II.
“You don’t think about your government being wrong,” he said. “All you can think about is that those planes overhead are trying to destroy your city and your family. That makes it easy to hate.”
With those disclaimers about attitudes, Americans cannot rest easy when we travel, when we are in crowds and when we contemplate the fact that violence may someday be our companion. Home invasion, terrorist attack at a sporting event — even the classroom or theater.
Modern medicine has brought about so much relief — so many cures and much extended life. Women typically no longer die in childbirth. Dreaded diseases have lost their grip on populations except in some Third World countries, which means most of us can expect long, secure and healthy lives.
As tragic and as terrifying as Boston was, the percentages remain favorable for most of us. This was not the case, however, for a small group in Boston. I still think about Stephanie. Had she finished her run a few minutes later, our lives would have been turned upside down.
Stephanie and our son, Kent, live in Dallas where they work long, hard hours to provide the best in schooling and environment for their children: Alex, 10, and Zoe, 8. They, like most young couples, lead intensely active lives. School activities, and soccer, baseball, swimming and basketball and football games — all centered around church involvement.
There, too, is a commitment to keeping fit, so they squeeze in their running somehow. Stephanie enjoys competing in marathons, and running in the granddaddy of all marathons has always been a goal. She and a friend made plans for this year’s Boston marathon. Kent would stay home with the kids, so mom could enjoy that ultimate thrill of participating in an event that all distance runners want to experience.
Everything went fine, although a sore foot left her disappointed with her performance time. In a casual conversation on the afternoon of April 15, a friend told me the news about the bombing. A chill swept over me and there was sheer fright until an hour later when my son said via phone, “Dad, Stephanie’s okay.”
Time will bring about healing for all involved in this latest terrorist attack. Let us hope time will convince mankind that hate, no matter the damage it brings, will never be victorious.
Loran Smith is an administrative specialist for the University of Georgia sports communication department. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.