I love the Boston Marathon. The spirit of the event is a resonant harmony of the freshness of the first warm days, the hope of early-season baseball, the perseverance of the runners, the lift of the cheering crowd, the helpfulness of the marathon volunteers, and the silliness of the soused– all of it wrapped into a ball of joyful camaraderie that is fully lovely because widely shared. People come together on Marathon Monday in a way that calls forth our better nature: we cheer for each other, instead of harboring hidden envy. Your success is my success; my success is yours. Ubuntu.
Is the bombing really an end of innocence for the Marathon? I remember being in Hopkinton for the start of the race in April 2002, and I remember being on the lookout for suspicious bags and suspicious people. I wasn’t overanxious, afraid, or edgy– I was just aware of my surroundings, having had past trauma re-awakened the previous September. And while I am not a reporter and therefore don’t know this to be true, I imagine that Marathon and city officials rehearse for emergencies. In this era, it would be naive– even negligent– not to prepare for scenarios similar to what happened Monday.
I believe innocence is recoverable; I believe that there always exists the possibility of a second innocence rising up as a green shoot from dead earth. A second innocence will never be as pure as original innocence, but it might be richer: richer because a second innocence knows, and has some kind of working agreement with, the darkness and corruption in life. On the far side of injury, we re-open ourselves to love. We can, and do, begin again.
Perhaps Monday’s bombing was the end of a naivete about the Marathon, rather than the end of innocence. Naivete says: it can never happen here. Naivete says: I can guarantee 100% safety, all the time. Naivete says: there is a plane of existence that is exempt from the outrageously unfair. It’s right to grieve the loss of this naivete, even as we grieve for those who died, and for those who were injured in body, mind, and spirit.
On Marathon Monday next year it will be spring again, after a long winter. 25,000 runners will gather in Hopkinton, and half a million will line the route. The spirit of good will and mutual care will come alive again; again my success will be yours, and yours will be mine. What is this, if it is not innocence reborn: the willingness to share again a day that is beautiful and good, despite the memory of fear and grief; the willingness to come together again to celebrate the best of the human spirit, despite having experienced the worst? The spirit of the Marathon will have a shadow, and that shadow will add a dimension of sadness. Still– even with that sadness, and maybe perhaps even because of it– the spirit of the Marathon will be more abundantly filled with all the fullness of life.
Below is an excerpt and link to Boston Globe sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy’s column on the bombing:
More end to more innocence. One of our best days is forever tainted. The 117-year-old Boston Marathon will never be the same. The journey from Hopkinton to Boylston Street is now a 26.2-mile stretch of yellow police tape.