For those unfamiliar with the city of Boston, Patriots’ Day is a major holiday. Schools, banks and most workplaces are closed. Patriots’ Day is celebrated in the state on the third Monday in the month of April each year. It is the anniversary of the first two battles of the Revolutionary War—the battles with the British in Concord and Lexington on April 19, 1775. That first shot at Lexington has been called the “shot heard round the world.”
But that was before April 15, 2013. Within just a few seconds of each other, two bombs detonated at the Boylston Street finish line of the Boston Marathon. From now on, Patriots’ Day will be remembered as the day of the bombings, instead of the day that freedom was born.
It is hard to imagine a sporting event any purer than the Boston Marathon. It has a long and storied history, but that changed in a few seconds at 2:50 on Monday afternoon.
At this point, we know that two bombs exploded within 30 seconds of each other and about 100 yards apart. They were designed to cause the most human carnage and contained shrapnel for penetrating the flesh. Three people were killed; and more than 176 were injured, several of them critically.
My family and I lived just outside the city of Boston during the 1980s, and some of our fondest memories involved our visits to the city. It was on a Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 18, 1983, when my two daughters, 7 and 3 years old, and I attended the morning baseball game between the Red Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers at Fenway Park, which was won by Milwaukee.
After the game, we walked the short distance from Fenway to Boylston Street to watch the finish of the marathon. There we saw Joan Benoit, a New England athlete win the women’s race, setting a world record that stood for 28 years. My two daughters and I watched from the midst of the crowd, unable to see a lot, but excited to be there, and we returned home that evening tired but happy at having witnessed history. As I watched the news of the bombings, these memories returned. We stood on Boylston Street just across from where those bombs exploded.
I could not help but imagine if it was 1983 and I was standing there with my two little girls, with our baseball gloves and hats, and a bomb going off next to us. What would you do? What could you do? One of the fatalities was an 8-year-old boy from Dorchester who was there to greet his father when he crossed the finish line. His sister lost a limb, and his mother was seriously injured. As a parent and a husband, I cannot imagine what that would be like.
Neither can I imagine who does such a thing, destroying the lives of innocent children, and why. We have seen way too much of that recently—cowardly acts intended to kill, wound and maim men, women and children. As we pray for those who were injured and for the families of those who were killed, we cannot help but ask God, “How much more of this will we see?”
What we experienced in Boston is a regular occurrence in many parts of the world, but that doesn’t make anyone feel any better. As a country, we will become more vigilant, but everyone acknowledges that we cannot guarantee this will never happen again.
What is the answer? Sure, let’s get more security, more police officers; and let’s invest more money. But that is just a short-term strategy. What is the long-term answer? Do we really want to live like that—in a country where, for every major sporting and social event, we must be surrounded by police, National Guard or even the army?
There is a real solution, but surely we’ve seen by now that all the human efforts in the world cannot prevent evil actions. Sooner or later, we must accept that any real solution will involve intervention from God. Are we ready as a nation to humbly turn to God, to seek His help and protection, to listen to Him and obey Him?
Can we for a moment consider our own lives and how fragile they really are? Can we commit ourselves to removing hatred and animosity from our small world of influence?
Patriots’ Day 2013 in Boston was a very sad day. The events of that day will not be forgotten, but life will go on, and things will return to normal. But, sadly, without fundamental changes in the way we live and think, normal will be an increasingly violent world.
For Life, Hope and Truth, I’m Jim Franks.