As probably everyone knows, the last week has been a humdinger, especially for those of us living in and around Boston. Since Monday, April 15, I have felt as though I was standing before a firing squad, and each successive shock was another bullet ripping through my security, my complacency, my certainty in the world. Finally, though, the bullets seem to have stopped, at least for the time being.
On Monday, there was the bombing of the Boston Marathon; Tuesday brought the poison-laced letters to politicians; Wednesday was the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in Texas; Thursday was the release of surveillance photos of the bombers; Friday brought the entire city of Boston and immediate surrounding area to a standstill as the authorities combed neighborhoods for the surviving bombing suspect. A child, two young women, and young police officer died in Boston. First responders and workers died, a town was devastated in Texas. It was all so horrible and surreal.
The stories were heart wrenching. The bravery and selflessness of the first responders – the police, the fire, the doctors, the nurses, the civilians – who rushed in heedless of their own safety. They saved lives, and in Texas gave their own to try saving others.
Reading the news coverage, I wondered at the contrast between the bomber brothers and the brave men and women who rushed in. I wondered at the contrast between the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, and the undeniable courage and grace of the men and women who died trying to save so many. I refuse to use the names of the animals who perpetrated these horrible crimes. I refuse to grant them even the small dignity of having individuality. Their victims are the ones who deserve recognition – those who died in April 2013 and those who died on September 11, 2001.
That’s the mystery. How such amazing people can exist side by side in this world with such evil as the criminals mentioned above. I spend hours pondering the meaning of evil, the question of how any higher power, any god, any superior being, can allow such horrible things to happen. But it seems to me that whatever we may believe regarding religion, we all can agree that superior human beings exist on this earth. They are the policemen and women, the firemen and women, the men and women of the military. They are the people who stand in front of the rest of us willingly when the bullets fly, the fires rage, the bombs explode and the missiles fly. Many do so because they consider it an honor and a calling.
That’s the wonder. That even in the midst of such destruction and evil, the best of humanity shines through. As my mother has told my sister and me throughout our lives, “The cream always rises to the top.” She’s right. It may not be immediately evident, but eventually the cream of humanity will rise to the top and allow the rest of us to taste just a bit of their greatness.
I’ve questioned my beliefs and the universe a lot over the last week, but that’s the human condition, isn’t it? We learn by questioning, by thinking. There are no easy solutions to the problems in our world, no way to get around and really live without thinking “what if” and “why,” but it is only through asking those questions that we learn about ourselves, how to be better.