Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In the Face of Tragedy

I do not usually post about man-made tragedies. I have certainly posted before about natural disasters (Christchurch and the Japan earthquake), but I never feel like I have a good response to shootings and bombings and the like. I do not, in any way, want this blog to become political, and these issues are usually so wrapped up in politics (perhaps as they should be) that I just feel uncomfortable.

And yet, the bombing at the Boston Marathon seems exactly like what needs to be addressed here.

If I have learned one thing from a yoga practice, it is how connected we really are. There is a lot of talk about oneness in yoga (and other spiritual disciplines), and yoga gave me the opportunity to experience that and know I was experiencing it. It is a concept the legal community would do well to understand a bit better. There is simply no escaping that what happens to one person happens to us all.

And it need not be next door. I am not a runner. Never have been. To be honest, I did not even know the Boston Marathon was happening yesterday. I have only been to Boston once. I loved it, but it is not a place with years of nostalgic memories for me. For all the ostensible lack of interest in the event and even the place, the tragedy touched humans and, therefore, touched me.

A tragedy such as this is an opportunity to remember that what we do to each other matters. How we treat each other affects the entire world. And I have lamented before about how it takes a tragedy or a disaster to remind us of these truths, but sadly we seem to forget in our everyday life.

The people at the Boston Marathon finish line experienced firsthand trauma. Whether they were physically injured or not, they experienced the shock and horror themselves. Those of us watching from afar had to experience the secondhand trauma, the vicarious trauma. And this is why these moments shock us into paying attention. All of a sudden, we all need to be comforted at some level. For anyone on facebook, I am sure you saw, as I did, the number of prayers sent out. And then there was the Mr. Rogers quote reminding us to “look for the helpers.” In the internet age, it takes only seconds for there to be an iconic image of an event, and the ones emerging from Boston always seem to have people helping out. The favorite story was of people who had finished the marathon running to the hospital to give blood.

We reach out together to find the people that make us feel better about the moment. After the Christchurch earthquake hit, I remember people in suits helping dig people out of rubble. In Boston, police ran into the street unsure of whether more bombs would explode and others helping those who were wounded. Mr. Rogers’s quote reminds us we need those stories because we need to feel a sense of calm. We need to see that not all of humanity is set on destruction. That is how we shake the trauma.

As people start saying Boston will never be forgotten, just like 9-11 and the Holocaust, I ask you, again, what that means. Does it mean we just remember these awful tragedies? Does it mean we expand our knowledge and remember other bombings and genocides? Or does it mean we remember the lessons of these tragedies?

Can we remember every single day how precious life is? Can we remember every single day how precious our friends and family are? Can we remember every single day how precious the stranger on the street is? Can we remember every single day how precious even those we do not like are?

That is what we learn in the face of tragedy, and hopefully that is what we can remember going forward. 


© Rebecca Stahl, 2013, all rights reserved. 


  1. I really agree with u Jake this really fantastic


  2. I really agree with u Jake this really fantastic