“In the ensuing months, she thought much about the way in which a stranger can finger your life: this man, who knows nothing of her, nor she of him, until both arrive at the fatal grid reference, which has always lain in wait. And now the man is gone…

                                                                                                             Consequences by Penelope Lively


I’ve been reflecting on the Boston bombings and their aftermath in the 2 weeks since the attack on an American city and it’s people. Like most folks, I cannot get my mind around what might make two men so young act without conscience or any apparent remorse against the city where they had made their home.



I am well aware of hypocrisy, intrigue, incompetence, and stagnation – a laundry list of flaws in our American system. Yet, the avenues to respond to the acts by our government with which we do not agree are at our disposal at any time. Non-violent civil disobedience, strikes, referendums, blogs, editorials, class-action suits, documentary film making… All of these and many others have been used effectively to allow dissenting voices to be heard and, sometimes, if we’re persistent and courageous, change in a positive direction does occur.  Why might these two young men, one with a tiny daughter, choose extreme violence (and inevitable prison or death) to express their anger over the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?


Experts of all kinds are studying the trajectory of the lives of the suspects in the Boston bombings in the hopes of preventing future attacks from “self-radicalized” terrorists. A corollary to this is the question – How do we live our lives knowing we can’t be certain of safety anywhere, or at anytime? Are the cities of the world to live under a perpetually menacing cloud?


Photo credit – Pete Spurrier

For some in Boston, with their assumptive world shattered, activities will be curtailed and life will never be the same. Certainly, this is true for the families who lost a loved one and the people who were gravely injured. There are many ways in which random acts of violence or mere carelessness can irrevocably alter lives. That said, the festive quality of the targeted event and the horrific injuries focused the world’s attention on Boston. This is trauma of great magnitude, to the families of all concerned, victims and perpetrators.


The random traumatic events and situations that have occurred in my life, and they are many, I could not have predicted or defended against before the fact. Illness, predators, accidents, and consequences to me of someone eles’s behavior– to each of these I could only respond with the resources cultivated in me. It’s vital that I’ve always felt myself to be firmly seated in some community of fellow travelers. This began and ends with my family, both my family of origin and the family my husband and I created.

Beyond that I’ve been a part of a changing array of communities. Communities, like governments, are a flawed but necessary underpinning of human society. We all watched the people of Boston come together to respond to the wound it sustained on 4/15. Families, friends, leaders, and the public at large have been marshaling their resources to respond to what for some people will be a continuously evolving “new normal” as they recover and adapt to their injuries and losses.


The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” has been on my mind as I think of the young people growing up in the Boston of today. The way in which tragedy has united the people of this passionate city is essential to the post trauma recovery of all it’s people, most especially the young. Wherever you live, teach acceptance, neighborliness, and caring to the people in your daily life.  Young people are always looking for heroes. The ones they find in their own school, neighborhood, town, and city make the most difference in their lives. You really don’t know when and in what way you may one day need each other. Be a hero.

Photo credit – Aram Boghosian

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