The Opposite Effect

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In reading the NYT this morning, I came across the followiing two paragraphs:

Commissioner Davis said that officials were gradually reducing the size of the crime scene, which now stretches for 12 blocks in Copley Square, down from 15 blocks on Monday. He said it was the most complex crime scene in the history of the department.

City streets that normally would be clogged at rush hour were largely deserted on Tuesday except for a cold wind and a few runners out for a morning jog.

That there would be runners taking to the streets the morning after such a distressing tragedy was unsurpring to fellow runners. Those principles we consider most deeply American—independent, self-reliant, fiercely stubborn in the face of adversity—are woven into the substance of what being a distance runner is all about.

Runners are typically hard-edged realists that root their value system in the belief that outcomes of value are only achieved through periods of hard, consistent work. Unfortunately, part of this realism is knowing there’s a risk in participating in an event like Boston in this day an age. A risk of a terrorist act. It’s hard enough to provide security for a ball park. Providing security for a big-city footrace is infinitely more difficult. Yet runners, from around the world, train for the race, make the trip and take the risk. They will continue to do so in ever-increasing numbers.

The senseless attack on innocent civilians is made all the more senseless because the ultimate effect on Americans is precisely the opposite of what one would assume a terrorist or terrorist organization is seeking to accomplish. Rather than tear us apart it brings us together. It snaps us out of the red-state/blue-state spell and reminds us that we have each other’s backs. It pisses us off and we re-double our efforts. We do this for many reasons–that telltale stubborness being one of them—but chiefly to honor those who shed blood on a day meant to celebrate the freedom of a great country and a great city.

I imagine that on some level the terrorist act was meant to diminish the future of the Boston Marathon and other events like it. But it will have the opposite effect. Especially, of course, in Boston. As the runners who took to the streets this morning knew, next year’s race will have more meaning and power to it than ever.

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