by Lisa Ferentz, LCSW-C, DAPA
Again we are forced to contend with extraordinary trauma. Again we are left with feelings of profound grief, fear, and anger. We have to try to wrap our brains around the reality that a person or group of people could be so lacking in empathy, common decency, and a respect for the preciousness of life that they could plant bombs designed to inflict as much physical maiming and emotional terror as possible. We have to grapple with the terrifying reality that we are so potentially vulnerable in environments and at events that are supposed to be safe, joyful, and opportunities to celebrate the strengths of the human spirit. I’d like to suggest, without in any way minimizing the horror of what has happened, that we try to focus on the extraordinary acts of courage and humanity that played out as this nightmare unfolded.
Within seconds of the bomb blasts, videotape shows police, medics, nurses, marathon volunteers, and everyday people rallying to help the physically wounded and emotionally traumatized. Despite a biological instinct to run away from the source of threat, people ran towards the chaos, smoke, broken glass, and blood to offer their help. This is an amazing testimony to the inherent goodness that rests within the majority of human beings. Strangers carrying the injured to safety, running in with wheelchairs, applying pressure to wounds, comforting each other with soothing words of reassurance. Doctors and nurses working, without sleep, doing everything in their power to save lives and limbs. People who were at the scene submitting their pictures and video clips, while thousands call in to tip lines to assist police and intelligence services in their effort to find the clues that will lead to arrests and justice. Already, thousands of people have volunteered to give blood at the hospitals where victims are being treated.
And once again, a horrible but important opportunity to be grateful for what we do have: for 2 more bombs that didn’t explode, for lives that were spared, for families who reached out to and were reunited with one another in the midst of such tragedy. A marathon runner who was one mile shy of finishing the race when the bombs went off, echoed this idea when she said, “I didn’t cross the finish line, but I have never been so ecstatic at the end of a race because I was reunited with my family. And they were all safe.”
There are no answers yet. Who did this? And why? How long will it take to bring them to justice? Why didn’t intelligence catch the “chatter” that usually precedes an act of terror? While we wait for those critical answers, be careful not to vicariously re-traumatize yourself by overdosing on media coverage and images of the event. Try to focus on the overwhelming goodness that still exists in the world, and the countless acts of kindness that we automatically engage in when threatened. And send all of your thoughts and prayers to the families who were directly and indirectly affected by this cowardly and despicable act of terrorism.