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A Father Reflects on the Tragedy in Boston

A Father Reflects on the Tragedy in Boston

“I kept thinking: this stuff doesn’t happen here. We associate bombs, sadly, with Israel or Iraq, not Boston. Alas, we all have our ‘reality bites’ moments.”
“I kept thinking: this stuff doesn’t happen here. We associate bombs, sadly, with Israel or Iraq, not Boston. Alas, we all have our ‘reality bites’ moments.”

I am sitting with my laptop as the older boys bounce a ball back and forth safely between themselves, and my heart is finally beginning to stop racing.

My wife called me at 3 p.m. and told me to pick up the kids right away—two bombs had exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The kids go to New England Hebrew Academy, just a mile or so from the blasts.

We live in a suburb of Boston, some 15 miles north of the city, and it is usually a traffic crawl the entire way. But today was Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts holiday, and thankfully, there were no cars on the road.

The whole way in, driving at speeds I don’t care to mention, all I could think about was my kids. The radio was reporting that more bombs had been found—the panic was mounting by the minute. As I crossed the bridge into Boston, my cell phone stopped working, heightening the anxiety. Fortunately, the phone kicked back in, and an email came through from the school announcing that all the children were accounted for and safe.

I kept thinking: This stuff doesn’t happen here. We associate bombs, sadly, with Israel or Iraq, not Boston. Alas, we all have our “reality bites” moments.

I loaded my kids into the car and headed back north. Trying to field their questions, I realized that their world, and mine, won’t ever be the same. The terrible, heartbreaking reality is that evil exists and can touch them even here, at home.

The school nurse sent out an email advising us to avoid the news and not share too much with the kids, so as not to overwhelm them. Wise advice, but almost impossible to follow. The flood of calls and texts didn’t stop.

Then, only hours after the explosions, I began to hear stories about the greatness of the human spirit, about people along the marathon route who were coming out of their homes to give out water or food, or offering a place to rest or stay, since the city was in virtual lockdown and many could not get to their homes or hotels. I heard of participants in the race running straight from the finish line to area hospitals to donate blood. In addition, I heard from colleagues of mine rushing to area hospitals to assist the families of the wounded.

An email arrived from Rabbi Shmuel Posner, who runs the Chabad center close to the bombing:

The Chabad House and the Posner family are OK, thank G‑d.

Two things:

1. If anybody is in the area that needs help, a runner/family that needs a place to stay, a hot drink, a hug or wants to pray, whatever,


2. Thank you so much to all who texted, called, emailed and Facebook messaged to see how we are!

We love you.

Shmuel and Chana

It hit me: This is the appropriate response to my kids’ questions.

Thank G‑d, everyone here is OK. Now, what can I do to help those who are not OK? Without diminishing our pain at this tragedy and our deep compassion for those who are suffering, we can show our children an additional response. A disaster like this, while very frightening, is an opportunity to grow and give, rather than cower and run. If I can model this attitude myself—if I can point out to my children the countless small acts of heroism that are taking place—then at least as a parent I will have given them something strong and positive to hold onto.

May G‑d comfort those who have lost loved ones. May He heal the injured, and may we speedily be ushered into the era when “death will be swallowed up forever, and G‑d will wipe away tears from all faces.” May we know only happy times.

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Raymond Bastarache New Brunswick, Canada April 23, 2013

A father's reflection In times like these.....many people draw closer to G-d.. I specifically heard "My God.... My God! numerous times . Even President Obama acknowledge God ? shortly after this tragedy, in his speech? "we will find out who did this! and they shall be brought to justice"! I pray , he meant G-d when he said "we" ? Blesseth are they who call on Him.. They will be delivered.. He is a present help in times of trouble... the enemies were shot down. and brought to judgment, very,very quickly... Peace, once more reigns.... Shalom. Reply

Anonymous April 19, 2013

Racing to School - Apology I apologize for my earlier remarks. I don't know what got into me that day. I hope that you all remain safe. May G-d bless you for your work on behalf of the Jewish People. May G-d protect us all and return us to our true home with Moshiach. Good Shabbos. Reply

Anonymous New Jersey April 18, 2013

Response to previous comment Racing to School posted an extremely anti Rabbi and simply anti parent could keep your children in a battle zone if that makes you happy but do not remark on these parents urgency to find safety for theirs...and if you are Jewish shame on you. Chabad does more outreach to communities at large spanning the globe than most organizations, to people of all faiths, and yes Chabad Rabbis do run marathons. Nechemia and his wife are outstanding people. Reply

Sarah Rivka :) Cincinnati, OH April 17, 2013

Thanks for sharing! This is the kind of stuff that should be all over the news- All the acts of kindness that were generated from this tragedy. Mashiach will be here soon! Reply

Mushka NY April 17, 2013

to confused What do you mean, is this fiction? You didn't hear what happened in Boston? Reply

Leah chicago April 17, 2013

thank you Thank you for sharing this with such clarity, very inspirational.
Moshiach now! Reply

Marilyn Wattman-Feldman Oviedo, FL April 17, 2013

Thank you for sharing your thoughts & feelings. As a Mom (my kids are adults) I certainly felt the "pain" and "anguish" being experienced by those who witnessed this horrific event & for those who were desperately attempting to reach family & friends during the moments immediately following the bombings. May you and your family remain safe. And may all of Boston and its wonderful men, women and children remain resolute. To those who were injured, I wish a speedy and complete recovery. For the loved ones who must deal with a loss, I send my condolences. Reply

Anonymous New York April 17, 2013

A Father Reflects Thank you for your beautiful words, which brought tears to my eyes. May your prayer be immediately fulfilled, and, the prayer of Martin Richard, the child who before he tragically lost his life, held up a sign that he had written that read "Peace." Reply

Anonymous Texas April 17, 2013

Thanks For Sharing Dear Sir,

We are glad you & your family are safe. Not realizing where Chabad was located. I'm grateful to Hashem & for safety, but continue to pray for those affected by this tragedy.

Texas Reply

Adole Peter Nigeria April 17, 2013

May same way you paved for others be your way also Reply

Dee April 17, 2013

To Racing to School You obviously don't have kids. Or a heart. Acquire both. Reply

Anonymous April 17, 2013

RE: confused The author's name is Nechemia (not Nechama). Nechemia is a man's name and originates from the book of Nechemia which is part of Scriptures Reply

Shmuel Posner boston April 17, 2013

Dear Anonymous #1 "It's interesting that so many people contacted Chabad to see if you were okay. Did they think that any of the Chabad rabbis were running the Marathon... or waiting at the finish line. I doubt it."
They contacted us because we LIVE in BOSTON and they care about us. The victims were NOT people running in the Marathon rather they were spectators.
Chabad rabbis WERE there - wrapping Tephillin with people etc. Reply

Anonymous NJ April 17, 2013

confused if this story is "a father's ..." why is it written by rabbi nechama...?
is this a true story or just fiction?

it is, however, inspiring, and leading us, the readers, to a positive direction. Reply

Anonymous April 17, 2013

Racing to School Sounds like you and your wife over-reacted. Did the school tell you to come pick up your kids? Did you think that someone targeted the Boston Marathon AND your kids' school? Do you think it was helpful to have more cars on the road at that time? Don't you think that the authorities would have checked the school to make sure it was safe? Your racing to pick up your kids would do more to upset them than the actual event.

It's interesting that so many people contacted Chabad to see if you were okay. Did they think that any of the Chabad rabbis were running the Marathon... or waiting at the finish line. I doubt it. Reply

Barbara Sofer Jerusalem April 17, 2013

The nurse's advice Tutored by the experts in Kiryat Shmoneh so long ago, I believe that children do best when their parents give them clear, truthful explanations of what has happened, and then go over protocol of what they are to do whenever they are close to a dangerous event. Our children grew up in Jerusalem with bombings. Unhappily, no one can assume this is a one-time event. Best to you in Boston. Reply

Michelle uk April 17, 2013

words are not enough your action and sharing was. Thank you (through tears)

G-d bless all Reply

Miriyam Gevirtz Santa Rosa, CA April 17, 2013

An Alternative Discussion with Children and Why Children are most frightened when the truth is kept from them; and, they won't know what to do when and if they must or should act. You should tell your children about the evil that is in the world so that they can watch for it and protect themselves as best they can. And, that along with evil is tremendous good. Let them know the many stories of how people helped each other, applying tourniquets, carrying the injured, offering a place to rest and more. You cannot hide from them for long the terrible events to the Chabad people in Mumbai. The Boston Marathon is much closer and their friends will have parents and teachers who will hopefully tell them the truth. Reply

David Alan Fairman Shiloh, Israel April 17, 2013

There goes one reason Jews in the USA are not coming home to Eretz Yisrael. It is as safe here as there. Make it THIS year in Jerusalem! Reply

Theresa Wisconsin April 16, 2013

Great Writing This is where God turns even the worst events upside down and brings evil to its knees. Thank you for taking the time to share this lovely and personal perspective and may you and your family continue to be always in God's protection! Reply

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