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 PM 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. Thankfully the phone kicked back in, and an e‑mail came through from the school announcing that all the kids 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 e‑mail 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 e‑mail arrived from Rabbi Shmuel Posner, who runs the Chabad center close to the bombing:
The Chabad House and the Posner family are okay, thank G‑d.
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,
OUR DOORS ARE OPEN.
2. Thank you so much to all who texted, called, e‑mailed, FB 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 okay. Now, what can I do to help those who are not okay? 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.