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The Branch Davidians committed mass suicide in April 1993.

The Alfred Murrah building was bombed in Oklahoma City in April 1995.

The Columbine High School shootings took place in April 1999.

And now the Boston Marathon bombing will join these events as historical April disasters.

# # # #

I have watched very little coverage of the bombing itself. When I found out it happened, I made certain two friends in the area were safe; I then clicked on a news link and saw the photographs of what had happened. The first photographs were the worst in a way: blood lay in swaths on the ground, as if pieces of flesh had been dragged over it, and there were no signs of injured people.

That changed after the first five pictures.

I've seen a lot of horrific events in my life, and I have no taste for the way the media drag these out for public consumption, as if they're offering up teaser trailers for the latest blockbuster--albeit one meant to incite our collective anger and grief. Coverage of the OKC bombing ran for days; Columbine, for nearly a month; 9/11 has, it seems, finally lost steam as the Great National Mourning Glory. Bad enough that I can go to a news site and see the pictures of people with limbs hanging by threads. I've seen Nick Berg beheaded, people leaping from the Twin Towers, coverage of Iraqi civilians with horrific burns and lacerations. At some point yesterday, my brain said, Okay, I'm done. No more. I'm going to go out of my mind if I see anything else.

But what struck me more than the shots of men and women bleeding and in agony were the shots of men and women helping the wounded. Two bombs exploded, one erupting into a fireball present in many of the pictures; yet as people ran from the blast, others turned and ran back toward it. Many, many others. Some were veterans taking part in the Boston Marathon; some were civilians; many first responders also rushed onto the scene. They were living reminders that not all of the human race is composed of bloodthirsty goons and cowards.

One man, Carlos Arredondo, has become famous as "the man in the cowboy hat." The picture shows him running alongside a young man in a wheelchair. The young man's legs have both been severed below the knees from the blast; he is in gray-faced shock. Arredondo was holding the young man's mangled artery, cutting off the blood flow and likely saving his life.

A peace activist, Arredondo had a son, Alexander, a Marine lance corporal who died in Najaf, Iraq, in 2004. He got the news on his 44th birthday. On hearing it, he went into his garage, grabbed a torch and a can of gasoline, climbed inside his van, and set it on fire. He survived. In 2007, he was severely beaten at an anti-war protest. In December 2011, as American troops were withdrawing from Iraq, his other son Brian killed himself. Arredondo says of himself and his wife, "We are broken people." And yet he came to the Boston Marathon to support a group running for fallen veterans--and kept a man from dying.

No one would have blamed this man for running to safety. I certainly wouldn't.

There will always be those who want to destroy and maim the world around them. Finding those who will reach out to strangers in dire need, no matter what their own straits may be, may seem like a miracle these days. I'm beginning to wonder if it's really as rare as we think. It would, to paraphrase Tennessee Williams, be pretty to think otherwise, but would it necessarily be untrue?


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August 2017



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