We can’t do this again.
That was, selfishly, overwhelmingly, my first thought when I heard the news from Boston yesterday. Another fiery day. Another cycle of mayhem, and disbelief, and grief. Another frozen moment, then the slow motion familiar march -- the numbers mount; names become linked with those numbers; those names become stories, and shred our hearts.
We have done it too many times before.
We did it as places -- anywhere USAs, where any of us might have been -- became shorthand. Oklahoma City. The Twin Towers. Columbine. Aurora. Newtown.
We did it when strangers -- who could have been any of us -- became symbols.
How can we do this again?
This time the place is Boston. The names are Martin Richard, all of 8-years-old, who was standing on exactly the wrong square of sidewalk with his family as they cheered on their friends. Martin is dead. His 6-year-old sister is said to have lost her leg. His mother reportedly suffered injury to the brain.
Or Liz Norden, the mother of five who sat outside the Beth Israel Deaconess emergency room last night, waiting to see one grown son who had lost a leg, knowing she would then head to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where his brother’s lower leg had also been amputated. “I feel sick,” she told the Boston Globe. “I think I could pass out.”
Next will come the funerals. And the ongoing investigation. And the attempts to return to normal, while coming to understand, once more, that normal was never anything more than an illusion.
I don’t want to do this again.
But I will.
I will grieve over each name, as I did after Oklahoma City, when for years I carried a list of the victims in my wallet. As I did each morning in the months after 9/11 as portraits appeared in my morning paper, and I read them like a benediction to start a new day. As I do, still, a season after Newtown, when I wear a bracelet in memory of principal Dawn Hochsprung that says “What Would Dawn Do?”
We will do this again -- immersing ourselves, feeling distant pain as if it were our own, feeling grateful but also guilty. We will do it not just because we have no choice, but also because we owe it to ourselves. To remember that life is fleeting, that gifts are too easily invisible until they are gone, that most people are good and will go running toward the sound of an explosion in order to help.
Mostly, though, we will do it because we owe it to them. Because some people are evil, and the only chance there is that evil will be beaten is if we take their these memories, these stories and vow to make the world just a little bit better in their name.
And so, we must do this again.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Martin's father, Bill Richard, was running in the Boston Marathon. Bill Richard was not participating in the race. The Richard family was there to watch and cheer on friends running in the marathon.