Carnage and Courage

What One Runner Says Boston Terror Attack Taught Us

Lessons of Boston: Noam Neusner, second from right, prepares to run in the Boston Marathon.
Lessons of Boston: Noam Neusner, second from right, prepares to run in the Boston Marathon.

By Noam Neusner

Published April 16, 2013, issue of April 19, 2013.
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The great moral systems of the world — Judaism among them — bring order out of the chaos of fate and fortune. In the days to come, let us not appeal to nor abandon our lives to luck and the odds. Let us make those choices that preserve the principle that we make our lives and our lives are not made for us. We may not succeed every moment of every day, but if we fail to try, there will be no rationale for the heroism we saw on Boylston Street.

All of which brings me to think about what happens next.

As someone who was present at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001 and now on Boylston Street, I have been too close to horrific acts of terror on United States soil. These two events (and others like them in London, Madrid, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bali, Tokyo and so on) are relatively rare, and so it is tempting to consider them “one-off” occurences. They may be rare, but we live with the consequences every day.

The people who organized and executed these bombings did so to constrict our lives further. They aim to take away our freedom of movement. They want to take away our trust in strangers. Yesterday, they took away the joy of a crowning American civic celebration of sport and determination.

They are mangling our public spaces with the inevitable security apparatus that will follow. They targeted a high-profile televised event precisely to mark the witnesses along with the injured. I saw a photo of a man with exposed leg bones, his feet and flesh blown off. We are all injured, as witnesses.

It is up to us what happens next. We saw in Boston what we always knew. We are capable of great moral choices in moments of high crisis.

And we are not defenseless. We are not subject to fate and fortune. We sanctify life when we run into danger. And in the face of terror, we embrace life when we vigorously pursue, prosecute and attack those who have attacked us.

War is being waged on us and if we don’t fight for our public spaces and civic freedoms and celebrations, we are going to lose them. So if this is a war, let it be a war, and let us not fight by restricting ourselves. Let us fight by doing what it takes to achieve victory.


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