By Taylor Smith
As an athlete, coach and all-around sport enthusiast, I see sports as an escape from the drama and stress of everyday life. Athletes, players, coaches, family, friends and fans all come together to participate and enjoy all the positive aspects of sports as an experience that can be shared by everyone and naturally brings people together.
But local, national and international tragedies also bring people together to mourn those lost and affected.
The Boston Marathon is one of the world’s most iconic sporting events; Although no world champions are named, it can be considered the World Series of marathon running, if it isn’t already. Held every Patriot’s Day, the third Monday in April, for the past 117 years, it has become a timely tradition full of athleticism, challenges, sportsmanship and fun that everyone in Boston, the running community and the sporting world can recognize as true competition.
This year’s Marathon Monday, a lot of what we have learned to love, cherish and celebrate about the event was attacked when two bombs went off, moments apart, near the finish line four hours and nine minutes into the race. The FBI is calling the attack an “act of terrorism.”
The attack killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injured at least another 176. The three killed and most of those injured were spectators cheering and taking photos as runners finished the race on Boylston Street in downtown Boston.
The attacks on Monday mark the first deadly attacks of their kind on U.S. soil since the terrorist attacks that shocked the world on September 11, 2001.
I feel many do not know how to react when these things happen. Living in the United States, we’re not faced with these issues on a day-to–day basis. The same day, a bombing in Baghdad killed 31 people and injured over 200 others; but it received little coverage by the U.S. media, and by the end of the day the Iraq bombing story wasn’t even on the front page of the BBC website.
When news of the Boston attack first hit me, I didn’t think much of it—another possible terrorist attack. Whatever, those happen almost everyday around the world—but not here in the U.S.
I was close to the 9/11 attacks. I grew up within an hour’s drive of Washington, D.C., in Maryland; I was nine years old and in Mrs. Grim’s (yes, that was her real name) fourth grade class at Arnold Elementary when the attacks occurred. There were a lot of kids in my class and my neighborhood whose parents worked in Washington, as did mine. My dad was not directly affected by the attacks, but several of my classmates’ parents worked in the Pentagon.
Their careers, their work—their lives—were forever changed; but then again, so was everyone else’s, in one way or another. Fortunately, no one I knew directly, or through their son or daughter, lost their life that day. Then again, I didn’t know nearly as many people as I do today and, quite frankly, I was too young to comprehend the situation. All of my friends at local Boston colleges are okay, and from what I am aware of I do not know anyone affected by this tragedy.
So even though I have been through this situation before, I feel as though this is the first time I am experiencing an attack like this, even if it is not actually the first.
This year’s Boston Marathon brought together over 27,000 runners and thousands more volunteering, supporting or cheering for the event and athletes. It hit close to home and has re-instilled the fear in Americans that was implanted into our society 11 years ago.
Some people are already saying stuff along the lines of “Oh, only three people died and 100-plus injured. It’s nothing like 9/11.”
But it is. The attack should and will be treated as a tragedy and never forgotten as another “terrorist attack” against the United States.
The Boston Marathon, and large international sporting events like it, is never going to be the same again.
Countries, cities, sports organizations and Olympic committees have always prepared for attacks like these since the 1972 Munich Olympic attacks by the Black September Palestinian terrorist group.
But even with money, people and all available and relevant resources, it is next to impossible to prevent attacks like these from happening. London officials have already upped security in anticipation of Sunday’s London Marathon to try and prevent any copycats.
Almost everyone immediately developed quick reactions and quick opinions to the attack; I know my first immediate thought was, “I bet this was done by an amateur like the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.”
But as expected, there were many who began to blame Muslims and the entire Islamic religion, and they didn’t use kind words to do so.
My Facebook and Twitter feed were flooded with statuses and tweets showing sentimental support for those affected and wising their friends and loved ones in Boston the best, which gave me some hope.
I did not see any of my friends post immediate hate against a certain nationality or religious group. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
One news reporter, Fox News contributor Erik Rush, tweeted shortly after the bombings, “Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring in more Saudis without screening them! C’mon! #bostonmarathon.”
After somebody responded to that tweet asking Rush if he was already blaming Muslims, Rush responded, “Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all.”
Some are pointing out the obvious when blaming “foreign terrorism”—that the attacks occurred on Patriot’s Day, in a city best known for its history of revolutionaries and original thoughts of American freedom.
But that doesn’t mean it was foreign terrorism. We don’t have the straight facts and evidence to even begin determining who is responsible.
And even if it turns out the attack was the result of “radical Muslims,” that doesn’t mean the entire Islam religion and its more than two billion followers are to blame.
The Westboro Baptist Church announced on their Twitter feed, hours after the attack, “BREAKING: Westboro Baptist Church to picket funerals of those dead by Boston Bombs! GOD SENT THE BOMBS IN FURY OVER F** MARRIAGE! #Praise God.”
We all know the WBC is a little eccentric, has a cult following, misguides its members and can be considered a radical Christian group.
Normally we do not associate the WBC with the Christian religion. Then why do we associate all Muslim terror groups with the Islam religion?
Seeing attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing can easily make one lose a little faith in humanity.
One can sometimes only wonder, “Why would somebody do this? Over religion? Over hate against America? Because God wanted this to happen?”
These are the absolute worst reasons for us to attack one another. Seeing many trying to blame an entire religion, person or group really makes me question the way the world thinks and lose faith in humanity.
I know not everything will be the same again after the Boston Marathon bombing, just like nothing was the same after 9/11, but what does give me reassurance and faith in humanity is how the people at the scene reacted.
In the videos shown when the bombings occurred, you hear and see hundreds of people run not away from the attack site, but towards it, to lend a helping hand.
Boston’s and other nearby cities’ fire and police departments and emergency medical services lined up to help as soon as they could, clearing the area and transporting injured victims to the city’s hospitals.
There were even accounts of runners who had already finished but continued running to the hospitals to donate blood for the injured.
Support and help for Boston is pouring in from around the world. This attack didn’t just hit the U.S.; it hit individuals, families and communities from around the world.
The attacker or attackers who planned this event aimed to disrupt and tear apart society and cause harm to America.
What this year’s Boston Marathon will do is bring participants, volunteers, supporters and runners alike closer together than ever before.
Those who lost their lives and those who were injured will never be forgotten, and those that rushed toward the scene in the face of panic and disarray should be looked to as heroes and an example of the right thing to do.