During both 9/11 and the Marathon bombings I have been surrounded by children. In 2001, I was a nanny to four in Newton, and right now I’m a parent to two in Waltham. So after both of these tragedies — and after Newtown, Conn., too — my reaction to the violence has been to focus inward, to maintain calm, to keep up the routine of daily life.
Quietly I think about the victims. My daughter is just a bit younger than Martin Richard. I see pictures of his grin and wonder when she, too, will loose a tooth.
I wonder if I ever brushed elbows with Krystle Campbell in Medford, where we lived for six years. Somehow our circles must have collided: on Monday night I saw several posts on my Facebook newsfeed from friends of friends asking for information about where she might be. When I read those, I suspected the answer was not going to be good. By the next night everyone knew she wouldn’t be posting an “all okay” like the rest of us.
And, I teach at Boston University, where Lingzi Lu was a graduate student in mathematics and statistics. I didn’t know her; as I spend my time on campus in the Center for Fine Arts. But just hearing “BU student” on the radio yesterday called her family’s pain to mind, too.
I also find myself wondering about who did this. As I typed this, the news reports kept changing: a suspect is in custody, not in custody. My kids are underfoot, so I won’t watch it anyway; we’re outside, and they are delighting in being kids, rather than taking in the insanity of us adults. But what I still want to know about the perpetrator is this: When did this person’s respect for life wither so drastically that he (or she) would even contemplate such an act?
One doesn’t wake up and decide to kill. One is taught, directly or indirectly, that life is not valuable; that the human condition is not shared. For when it is shared, it is cherished. It is celebrated. When you’ve been taught to recognize it, you fight to save it — which is what we all witnessed responders do on Monday afternoon. I am as horrified by whoever taught this person otherwise, just as much as I am by whoever that person is himself.
I’m an artist. I write plays. So my first call — to the heavens, to battle — usually involves a call to create in the midst of so much destruction. But right now, after an event so close to home, an event my family usually watches at the finish line, my call is aimed inward. I look at my children and want to keep them safe. But I also feel a call to foster a celebration of humanity, which sometimes feels chillingly lacking.
People who commit acts like these are not necessarily born. Sometimes they are created; they are condoned; they are taught, somewhere along the way, that human life is worth less than their desire to terrorize.
Like New York and Newtown, Boston will prove this person is wrong.