On Friday morning, more than 9,000 police officers combed the streets of Watertown searching for the remaining marathon bombing suspect. The governor of Boston warned “all of Boston” to lock their doors and only open them for police officers. As the mass transit and school system of the fifth largest metropolitan area in America came to a standstill, people spoke about the eerie silence on the streets as they sat locked in their houses, waiting for the manhunt to end.
It reminded me of the ‘lockdown” procedures a few months ago after the Sandy Hook school shooting. My children go to school in Connecticut and came home the Monday after the shooting to tell us about the new police guards patrolling their school and how they have to wait a few days before they can go outside for recess. The school taught all of the children a lockdown procedure and changed the classroom door locks so that they locked automatically from the outside.
I had grown up in a suburb where the front door was never locked, and I could ride my bike to the pizza shop with my friends. Today most houses have intricate alarm systems on all day, and I think twice before allowing my kids to even walk down the block. I mourn this loss of freedom for my children and for ourselves.
But terrorists can never take away these essential freedoms:
The freedom to give. Even in the harshest circumstances, there is always something we can give each other. It can be a smile or a drink. It can be something as simple as letting someone go in front of us in a traffic jam. Right after the marathon bombings a Cambridge woman wrote a Facebook post thanking an anonymous runner from Alaska. The Cambridge woman, Laura Wellington, was a runner who was close to crossing the finish line when the bombs exploded. She was diverted from the finish line and was walking alone on a side street when a couple walked by.
“The woman took the space tent off of her husband who had finished the marathon and wrapped it around me,” Wellington wrote on Facebook. “She asked me if I was okay, if I knew were my family was. And then the husband asked me if I had finished the race. When I shook my head, he took off his own medal from his neck and placed it around mine. He told me ‘you’re a finisher in my eyes.’” This Facebook post has gone viral with over 200,000 people sharing it because it represents our freedom to give no matter where we are, even on a side street in the aftermath of a horrific terror attack.
The freedom to choose life. One of the most courageous heroes in the Boston marathon bombings was the “Cowboy Hat Hero” who literally jumped the barricades seconds after the explosion went off to try to help the wounded. Carlos Arredondo, who lost his own two sons not long ago, is Red Cross trained and didn’t hesitate to jump into the chaos in order to save lives.
“My first reaction was to run toward people. There was so much commotion and a lot of people running away. I was one of the first to help people and God protected me. It was horrific.” We can choose life in the face of death. Whether it’s helping the wounded or choosing to get up and run again the next day, we can choose life. We face this choice every moment. Do we decide to keep going or do we throw up our hands in despair? Do we choose to runs towards life or away from it?
The freedom to believe. America was originally founded for this freedom. A country where we are all free to practice our religions without fear. A country where free speech is an ideal and the freedom to believe is a given. I remember once going to a department store with my grandmother when I was a little girl. There was a dish of candy on one of the counters that a saleswoman offered to me. My grandmother checked the package to see if the candy was kosher. I watched her peer over her glasses at the tiny print on the wrapper and then look up at the saleswoman with a smile.
“Thank you so much. We can’t have the candy because we’re Jewish, and we keep kosher.”
I was mortified. Why did my grandmother have to say anything? In the parking lot outside the store my grandmother turned to me and said, “You shouldn’t ever be embarrassed about your beliefs. Be proud. Stand up for who you are.”
Love is stronger than hatred. Life is stronger than death.
I didn’t really understand her words then, but I understand them now. We need to cherish our freedom to believe and to be proud of our ideals.
This last freedom was ironically referred to by the remaining bombing suspect, who was finally captured Friday night, in a tweet: “There are people who know the truth but stay silent and there are people that speak the truth but we don’t hear them cuz they’re the minority.”
These are haunting words given the heinous actions of this terrorist, but it is a message for all of us. The voice of evil is loud and strong. It has killed innocent civilians and kept the people of Boston locked in their houses. It has been terrifying a nation that prizes freedom above everything. But there are so many more of us who can speak out for peace, for justice, for kindness. There are so many more of us who must seize this freedom to stand up for what we believe in.
Because love is stronger than hatred. Life is stronger than death. And freedom is stronger than those who seek to take it away from us.