The Boston Marathon has always been inspiring. You spend a day watching thousands of people conquer a major feat. Even if you’re not participating in the 26.2 mile race, the runner’s high is contagious. I’ve never seen so much motivation and encouragement at a single time. It’s positively beautiful, which is why last year’s attack was so horrific.
Cheers were quickly silenced by explosions on Boylston Street. The finish line, a symbol of accomplishment, was overtaken by devastation in a matter of seconds.
Most of that week was a blur for the city of Boston. Shock, anguish, grief and sadness occupied the minds of all, while open questions sought answers.
And while these emotions overwhelmed us, there was another emotion I couldn’t shake—hate. A part of me couldn’t stand the thought of who was capable of such harm, yet I couldn’t keep myself from wondering who did this and why? How much hate can a person possibly possess? And no matter the amount of hatred in one’s heart, why would someone ever take it out on a sea of strangers, celebrating a beautiful moment? I hated the people responsible for tearing apart Boston’s soul.
When the images of the attackers surfaced a few days after the marathon, I was appalled. They looked young. They looked like people I would pass on the street and not think twice about. It made me realize that evil takes many shapes and forms. Hate has the power to manifest in anyone… but only if you succumb to its power.
It took some time for me to realize that focusing on hate was not going to change things. Fixating on it was unhealthy. It couldn’t turn back time or bring back the lives of Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi or Sean Collier. Hate wasn’t going to help the few hundred victims through their paths to recovery.
The only thing powerful enough to counter hate is love.
Those running that day, ran for love, not hate. They spent months, some years, dedicated to training and fundraising for their chosen charities. The first responders helped the victims because of love, not hate, in their hearts. People from all over the world rallied behind Boston out of love, not hate. While faced with some of the most atrocious hate this city has ever seen, love became all the more powerful.
We’ve rallied behind the words Boston Strong because we need a message of positivity, of hope, to encourage each other that we’re going to be alright. We’re in this together, supporting each other when we need help and reminding ourselves we’re a loving, resilient city.
Last week, I visited Boston Public Library’s “Dear Boston” exhibit, commemorating the lives taken last Marathon Monday and the words of encouragement left behind at the memorial in Copley Square last spring. The exhibit was filled with powerful images—runners’ sneakers, clothing from first responders, posters and scrap pieces of paper with scribbled messages from people around the world.
Near the end of the exhibit, there was one glass case with pieces from the memorial and the words “we choose love.” It read: “Do not let the world make you hard. Winter always turns into spring. Unified, not terrified.” While nothing can change the events of last year’s marathon, we can’t keep moving forward without love, hope and each other.
Today, as we remember and honor the lives lost and think about the survivors as they continue to recover, don’t forget to focus on love. Without it, we’re nothing. With it, we’re stronger than any amount of hate.