One year and thousands of miles later

On Palm Sunday I got out a little bit earlier than I normally would, especially after a decidedly non-Lenten Saturday night. I wanted to see the Passion play put on by the Life Teen group at my parish, and they don’t perform it at the mass I usually attend. As it turns out, while the Gospel was as moving as ever, it was the first reading that affected me the most.

Several months ago, during a rare moment of introspection, I realized that I haven’t really forgiven Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving alleged Boston Marathon bomber. It’s not something I am proud of, but every time I think of little Martin Richard, the 8 year old boy who died, or the hundreds of other victims, I can’t help but get upset. When I consider that my family should have been standing directly across the street from the second bomb, I—still, a year later—get very angry. I didn’t set the bomb, but they would have died waiting to see me. It still weighs heavy on my conscious just thinking about it.

With the anniversary last week, and the 118th running today, the Marathon has been all over the news and the topic of conversation everywhere. It should be no surprise then that it was on my mind last Sunday when we heard Isaiah say:

I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

Sitting in Mass, hearing the words of the prophet and then watching Jesus in the Passion play willingly submit to undeserved scorn and abuse, I could not help but contrast their reactions to mine. While the passage of time has helped to heal some of the wounds, I would not give my back to the Tsarnaev brothers. There’s also a very real chance that if you put me in a room with Dzhokhar, his face would need shielding.

I was not physically harmed by the blasts, and neither was anyone I know, thanks be to God. The bombings had an effect on the whole city, however, as well as on runners all over the world. So after Mass last week I donned The Burger once again and took part in the last leg of the One Run for Boston. The One Run was a coast-to-coast relay, beginning in Los Angeles and continuing, 24-hours a day, across the country towards Boston, all to raise money for the victims of the bombings. I ran a relatively short leg of 6 miles, and I had the benefit of doing it with hundreds of others, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, and with crowds out to cheer us on at the end.

Others ran near-marathon length stretches through the desert in the heat of the day, and then through the desolate nothingness of a prairie night. They ran in the rain, they ran after traveling great distances from their homes, and they ran sometimes until it hurt.

These are people, mind you, who have no connection to Boston. They have no family or friends here, and they didn’t know anyone hurt in the bombings. They ran, though, to show the world, and especially the people of the great city I call home, that terror will never have the final word. I couldn’t be more thankful for them.

People often say that running a marathon shows the triumph of the human spirit, and having run one I can tell you that in those last few miles there was little but willpower driving me forward towards the finish line. What does 26 miles compare to 3,328 miles, though? Running across a continent to support—financially, emotionally, and spiritually—people you’ve never met but feel compelled to help is the triumph of human solidarity.

The Passion play is heartrending, but it’s not the end of the story. Yesterday the tomb was opened, and the greatest victory of all was achieved out of the greatest calamity. I still have miles to go before I can say I am completely over the events of last April, and the real victims have even longer roads to travel for healing and peace. It helps to remember, though, that Easter follows every Good Friday, and that out of this heartbreaking tragedy has come so much good.