Recent years have been full of violence, with the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in Tucson, the Aurora theater shooting, the Newtown massacre, and now the Boston Marathon bombings.
The Boston Marathon, held every year on Patriots’ Day, suffered its soul-crushing tragedy on April 15.
When two explosions erupted near the finish line, instant panic pierced the streets. Runners and bystanders scrambled to make sense of the chaos.
The scene was described as a “combat zone,” with debris scattered alongside severed limbs and pools of blood. The bombings killed three people and injured 260. The injuries ranged from shrapnel wounds to dismemberment.
As the week unfolded and the nation searched for answers, two suspects emerged from the wreckage.
Brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, were both ethnic Chechens, immigrants from Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan. They were naturalized citizens who had lived in the United States for a decade.
On the surface, both brothers seemed like average Americans. Tamerlan loved to box, married an American woman, and had a daughter with her. Dzhokhar was a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Most of know the storyline that followed:
The brothers were quickly identified after the FBI released photos of the suspects. A massive manhunt began, and authorities closed in on the brothers after they fatally ambushed a police officer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The older brother was killed by police during an ensuing firefight, but Dzhokhar escaped.
Dzhokhar surrendered to police the next morning after he was found hiding in a boat. He was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with serious injuries.
Invoking the public safety exception, authorities did not initially read Dzhokhar his Miranda rights. Some U.S. senators urged that he be tried as an enemy combatant.
Dzhokhar was later transferred to a federal medical prison. Though Massachusetts does not have capital punishment, prosecutors could seek the death penalty in federal court.
Due to a throat injury, Dzhokhar was unable to speak but communicated through writing and nodding.
He told authorities that the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were his motivation for the bombings.
What are we to do in response to all this violence?
Will we continue meddling in war-torn regions of the world that don’t want to change?
Are we to seek retribution by targeting Middle Easterners? A Palestinian woman was attacked in Boston just before the suspects were identified.
Will we heed calls to tighten immigration by closing our doors to people who conspire against us?
Whether they’re Middle Eastern terrorists, deranged college students or Eastern European immigrants, we can’t seem to figure out who is with us and who is against us.
Shall we be overly cautious and brand all those who practice Islam as terrorists?
Should we label all loners as psychopaths?
Here’s the reality: You can have all the security in the world and still be at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
The Boston Marathon conducted bomb sweeps before the race began. All seemed well.
Whether it be a combat zone, grocery store, movie theater, elementary school or marathon, we live in a world where atrocities can occur at any time or place.
So what to do?
We should be vigilant and ever watchful of suspicious behavior, and report it when we see it.
Once violence occurs, all we can control is our response. The fear can either consume us or teach us.
We can take from these atrocities an appreciation for the time we do have. We can act as if every moment is our last — because it just may be.
Be all the more mindful and grateful for what we do have — the moment.