Boston tragedy reveals bravery, community

I first found out on the Associated Press app on my phone. The alert looked like a text message, but instead of the average drag, it said, “Two explosions at the finish line of Boston Marathon.” It was like a punch in the gut.

When I discovered the two explosions occurred within moments of each other, I knew it was an act of terror. It wasn’t an accident. Whether foreign or domestic, it was a planned attack on a symbolic day for Boston and for the United States.

I reached out to my friends who study in Boston, and when I heard cell service was down, I checked Facebook for any updates from those near the site of the bombings. All prominent cities in the Northeast went into high alert, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the New York Police Department would be especially vigilant.

As I walked home, I passed a few NYPD officers on the street. The concerned look on my face caught their attention, and I could feel their eyes on me. When I met their glances, they offered me a consoling smile — it was really powerful. We all understood that Boston was on everyone’s mind.

But no matter how immune we seem to have become to these premeditated attacks, we never are — and never will be — mentally prepared for their tragic aftermath. Three people dead — one, an 8-year-old boy — and 170 injured. For me, no matter how many statistics are spewed out following devastating attacks like these, I will never grow detached from the notion that these are real people who, by terrible luck, have had their life or limbs stolen from them.

Acts of terror shock and scare us, and the randomness of the victims makes it all the more horrifying. They disrupt us in the most traumatic way at a time when we feel the most safe and comfortable. They make us continually fear for our own safety, and we never know if or where there will be another strike.

But on Tuesday night I still went to class. I still walked through Washington Square Park and Union Square on my way home. Life goes on. While somber and sobering, these senseless acts of violence cannot make us afraid of living — if they do, we become permanent victims of terrorism.

Perhaps Boston already knows that — videos of the first blast show countless people immediately rushing toward those affected by the bombs rather than running away for their own safety.

The weeks ahead will be challenging, but the display of community and bravery that Boston has already shown in the wake of this crisis is always a reminder that the city remains and will continue to move on.

Raquel Woodruff is a deputy opinion editor. Email her at rwoodruff@nyunews.com.

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