The Cycles of Tragedy
This is an unqualified attempt to glean hope from the marathon bombings in Boston this week.
I was struck yesterday when I read the following quote in a book about Lincoln’s assassination:
The people in the central part of the city, during the night after the assassination, were stricken with horror at the deed and terror at the consequences. The unusual noises, the shouting of the news…the rushing “in hot haste” of single horseman and bodies of cavalry, the blaring of bugles, the excited and determined faces of men, the blanched and terror-stricken faces of women, who were full of apprehension of further evils, made an impression which will never be forgotten upon those who were awakened that fearful night. ~Washington Post, late-1800s, remembering the scene in Washington upon President Lincoln’s assassination
The people of that fine city reacted much in the same way that the fine people of Boston did. There was terror, noises all around, and of course, horrific memories imprinted into innocent minds. The two events — Lincoln’s assassination and the marathon bombings — are separated by nearly 150 years. Yet, the utter humanness of our reaction as a people is the same as it was then.
Obviously many things have changed in the last 150 years. But human nature has not. There were terrorists then, there are terrorists now. Thankfully, they are the minority (not the racial minority, mind you — I’m not trying to be Fox News here). What I was reminded of this week, by both my own reflections and those of many prominent people (especially comedians, actually), is that the good will always outweigh the bad. Instead of the story of a terrorist living on throughout time, it will be the stories of the heroes.
Yes, we hear about John Wilkes Booth some. But we hear far more about Abraham Lincoln’s bravery in the face of a nation divided. Yes, we’ll hear about the terrorist of the marathon bombings, but 150 years from now it will be the stories of the heroes that truly live on. It will be the stories of runners continuing another two miles past the finish line to donate blood. It will be the stories of all kinds of people — men and women, old and young, citizen and soldier — rushing towards where the bombs went off.
Tragedy will always come. That’s just the way it is in this broken world we live in. It came unexpectedly on April 14, 1865, and it came unexpectedly on April 15, 2013. In both instances, shock gave way to heroism. And it will always continue to do so. We cannot ever be prepared for tragedy, but at least we can know with confidence that when it does come, it truly will make us stronger. And not as a nation, but as a people.