It's the sort of thing you see in the news, happening somewhere else. Not here. Not on those streets you walk almost every day. Not in front of stores you frequent on a regular basis. Not on one of the city's biggest holidays. Not at the annual event you use to mark how long you've been in the city.
Yesterday I got in to work after very long commute from mile 17, where that morning, alongside old friends, I cheered on a new one. I had just settled in at my desk when suddenly a coworker looked at me with concern, "There was an explosion at the finish line. Are your friends still there?"
A text message soon confirmed they were all safely on their way to the airport. But this was now only a start to the mental list I began to compile of everyone we knew who was running the marathon, watching the marathon, volunteering at the marathon. Calls, texts, social media messages, all after just one bit of information: are you okay? In between were messages from our friends and family, looking for the same answer.
Slowly we heard back. There were close calls. A coworker's wife finished the marathon ten minutes before the explosion, and said coworker was already home after cheering her on at Coolidge Corner. He learned the news only when she called to assure him she was okay. A friend was headed to the finish line and arrived downtown just before the blasts, but someone on the train had convinced her to get off at Arlington instead of Hynes, putting her beyond instead of potentially in the middle of it.
I thought of my own story. If we weren't saving vacation time for our upcoming Paris anniversary trip and DR mission trip, I might have taken the whole day off instead of just the morning. I might have joined our friends near the finish line to cheer on Levi. After they left for the airport, I might have stuck around.
And then there was the commute home last night, the air heavy with rumors of suspicious packages littered around the city. We caught a ride with a friend but closed roads forced us to walk the last stretch, listening to the distant hum of helicopters and wail of ambulances.
So far everyone on our list is safe, but my heart aches for those who had a very different end to Marathon Monday. I am praying for the victims and their families and friends, and trying to figure out what we can do to help.
In the meantime, may we live as agents of your Kingdom—showing and sharing the love of Jesus to a broken and lost world. Running toward the blast, toward the suffering in order to help, instead of away from it—like the first responders did in the incredible video of bomb blast at the finish line.I am also thankful to live in a city filled with incredible people. Those first responders who rushed to the side of the injured. The marathon runners who crossed the finish line then kept going to donate blood at Mass General. The strangers who shared their phones so families and runners could connect and send the message they were safe. The people who opened their homes to those in need of a bed last night. The restaurants and food trucks providing free meals for anyone who needs it. And many more whose stories I have not yet heard.
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.I am also resting in Psalm 34:18: "If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath." Amen.
If you are in Boston, [REUNION] Christian Church is holding a prayer gathering at Ruggles Baptist Church (874 Beacon Street near the St. Mary's T stop) tonight at 7 p.m. You are welcome to join us.