Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Heroes, Courage, Trauma and Recovery

Yesterday, April 15th, 2013, two explosions rocked the Boston Marathon as runners and their supporters gathered in the afternoon near the finish line. As the race was winding down, the sense of celebration was palpable in the air, only to be replaced by shock and panic as a scene including dozens of injured and three dead emerged through the smoke.

None of us want to live our lives in fear of terrorism or unexpected trauma, yet in the reality of life in the 21st century, we are periodically reminded of our vulnerability. And while millions in places like the West Bank, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel live with the threat (and occurrence) of such violence on a regular basis, those of us within the borders of North America have been more inured to mass shootings than bombings over the last decade.

Oklahoma City, Atlanta and the events of September 11th, 2001 still remain a part of the collective American zeitgeist, although we have, as of late, been more keenly focused on mass shootings like Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut.

It's particularly tragic that parents of the slain children in Newtown, Connecticut were being honored as VIPs at the marathon, and they now have the misfortune to have witnessed yet another tragedy that must only add insult to their previously sustained psycho-emotional injuries. And the fact that an eight-year-old child died in one of the explosions only makes the situation even more poignantly lamentable.

What moves me greatly about what happened yesterday in Boston are the ways in which people dive in head first when the need arises. In eyewitness accounts, articles, photographs and videos, we see again and again how laypeople and uniformed professionals alike pitched in together to clear the debris, gain access to the victims, comfort the injured, and tend to the fallen.

Reports show that off-duty first responders, police, firefighters, nurses, doctors, surgeons, therapists, counselors and others rushed both to the disaster area and to their respective workplaces, with some hospitals witnessing rapid increases of available staff by up to 500% within an hour of the explosions.

People pull together so quickly in times of crisis, and I have tears in my eyes as I imagine the suffering of the injured, the confusion of those impacted by the chaos, as well as the heroism of those who rushed to help without regard for their own safety or the potential of further explosions.

I would hope that, when necessary, I would respond in exactly the same way in which so many brave individuals responded yesterday in downtown Boston. Human suffering is a universal experience, as is humans' innate desire to help others and relieve their suffering.

The traumatic events of April 15th will not be forgotten quickly. Even as we search for answers and someone to punish for this nefarious act, I also hope that these sorts of collective experiences can increase our compassion for those who suffer similar violence and trauma around the world on a daily basis.

Suffering unites us all, as does compassion. Let us glean from this event what lessons we can, and become even stronger voices for peace, love, courage, heroism, resilience and wisdom.

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