Devastation

As a former Boston resident and partner to a frequent Boston marathoner, I’m devastated tonight. My thoughts are with those who were injured, their families, Boston residents, selfless first responders, and members of the running community. I don’t even know what to say to them, except “Tell us what you need. It’s yours.”

I don’t understand why someone would murder and maim people who build a loving community, who celebrate a great city and a historical event, who want nothing more than to be and do their best.

But I’m getting mired in the pain and the ugly and the fear. So I want to step back for a moment to something that has always bothered me about the way in which we discuss tragedy.

Please, please understand this comes from a soulful place of love, empathy, and concern. I am not being sarcastic, I’m not joking, and I’m not in any way minimizing.

Ready?

Why do we react so much more intensely when the dead include children? Reports keep singling out the injury reports of children and the death of a child as though killing a child is worse than killing an adult.

Is it? Are we actually assigning children more worth than adults?

I know that I was affected at a much more visceral level hearing that one of the dead was so young. So heartbreakingly young.

But the other people who died were much younger than they were supposed to die, too.

Believe me, I find the details of those children treated for major injuries horrifying. I’m a mother. The thought of any children being hurt in any way actually keeps me awake at night. I am sick at the thought of a child hurt in a bomb blast.

But I’m just as sick to think of someone’s father being hurt in a bomb blast. Someone’s sister. Someone’s boyfriend. Someone’s mentor, sponsor, lover, friend, colleague…I’m sick about every person hurt, every limb removed, every death.

Sick.

But I’m asking, in terms of our use of rhetoric, our telling of stories, our accepted morality that says it’s worse to intentionally hurt a child: why do we focus on the children?

I understand completely why it’s not okay to hurt people, and why it’s reprehensible to hurt a child. But if we’re talking mass casualties, if we’re talking bomb blast that kills indiscriminately, why do we focus on the dead child more intensely than the other dead people?

Children don’t know the extent to which some evil really creeps; they don’t know Holocaust or slavery or war or torture. They don’t know. So their early end is somehow more horrible? I feel that, but I don’t understand it logically.

Is it because children are innocent? Most citizens of most countries around the world, it seems to me, are pretty innocent. (But wait, my heart says, children are way more innocent.)

Is it because children have their whole lives ahead of them? Most marathoners and their family and friends, it seems to me, have a whole lot of life left, too. (But wait, my head reminds me, children have more life left.)

Is it because children are so desperately loved? Most fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, friends, aunts, uncles…you get the picture…it seems to me, are pretty dearly loved, too. (But wait, whispers my soul, children are loved more completely and unconditionally. I hope.)

Is it because children can’t protect themselves? Most people moving past or standing near a hidden bomb, it seems to me, can’t protect themselves, which is, of course, the point to the horrible, disgusting people who did this.

Is it because there is a greater shock value to a child’s injuries and death? I swear I’m not trying to be cynical, but do reporters focus on the bomb shrapnel in boys and girls because we’re all so horrified that we keep reading? Tell the story of a runner, of a bystander, but really push hard on the story of a child because that story makes us gasp out loud? Maybe. I did gasp out loud for that eight-year-old.

Why?

Is it because children aren’t supposed to die? Is that the core of this? That with each year of life we’re getting closer to dying, but that it’s just horrifically, stomach-turningly shocking to hear that an eight-year-old was killed?

Or, say, 26 first graders?

I don’t understand the disgusting malice that would make someone build, plant, and detonate a bomb. I don’t. I don’t understand the sociopathology that would make someone disregard human or animal life. I don’t. I don’t understand where we’re supposed to go from here, as a nation and as world citizens. I don’t understand how people all over the world deal with frequent deadly attacks.

And I don’t understand why it’s an eight-year-old’s murder at a sporting event is so much worse than an adult’s murder at a sporting event.

But there’s a little piece of me that feels that it is.

It’s not fair to the families of the injured and dead in a terrible tragedy, and I hate saying it for the illogic it suggests, but I’m pretty sure injured and killed children wrench more than anything else. A child’s life is not worth more than anyone else’s. But somehow their death cuts more deeply.

I think.

What do you say?

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10 thoughts on “Devastation

  1. I am afraid that in the case of news reports, they might focus on the children because it’s more compelling and makes people watch. But the reason, I think, it’s more compelling and more heartbreaking when it’s a child is that we feel we should be able to protect them. They can’t protect themselves. I mean, OBVIOUSLY, no one can protect themselves from something like a bomb, but the horror seems more horrifying because children are so helpless in the face of any danger.

    But that’s just my opinion.

    I sat down last night to write a blog post about lemon-scented ants (I know), saw the news reports, and just . . . stopped. I have to stop. I can’t write about it, but I can’t write about ants either.

    The least I can do is pause. And mourn for the people–adults and children–whose lives have been devastated by this and so many other tragedies. And for the rest of us, whose lives are affected by it as well, because it just doesn’t seem to stop. WHY can’t it just STOP?

  2. Honestly, I wondered that myself. In no way to minimize the loss of a child, but if it was my children’s husband or beloved grandfather…that’s awful too. There is something about the child. And it’s quite unseemly to measure and compare loss. Still, I fall into the trap. I was thinking of you as this story unfolded and grateful that your book helped me know about Boston from seeing it through your loving eyes.

  3. yes. more innocent, more life ahead (supposedly), more loved. even more disgusting to kill them than older people. who the fuck kills children?!

  4. Been thinking about this a lot today. You post and the whole nightmare. I too am a former Bostonian. Spent my college years there. Amazing city. But that’s neither here nor there. The way in which the media manipulates tragic situations to rip open our hearts is disgusting and tacky.

    But, you’re right. It is so much more devastating to hear about children being hurt or killed. Especially once you have your own. I have thought a lot about this since we lost my Dad 7 years ago(almost to the day), too soon, very sudden, no warning. As shitty as that was,(is) and as much as I miss him every day, it simply (and I don’t want this theory proven) does not compare to what I can imagine would be the horror of losing a child. Grandparents, parents, siblings, spouses, partners, friends…we know deep in our minds that there is a good chance we will not outlive all of these people. While we are NEVER prepared for these loses, there is just something different about them than the unspeakable loss of our babies. Ours, or others. We feel it. Personally. Deeply. All parents. It should just NEVER happen.

    And the media knows that.

    • That poor family. From what I’ve read, Dad came home without his wife (major injuries), daughter (amputation) and son (deceased).

      For running.

      There are no words for my sorrow or my rage.

  5. I LOVE YOU.

    You are so brave. I have to start by saying, I do not have the guts to write this even though I did wonder about it. Often. I do not have the guts probably because I wouldn’t have been able to make myself clear. but you m’lady are beyond eloquent and your words are beautiful, sad, haunting.

    I think you’ve got it right here: “A child’s life is not worth more than anyone else’s. But somehow their death cuts more deeply.”

    Don’t know why. It just does.

    I am still shaken and sometimes would burst into tears.

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