God there was so much blood.
I couldn’t really look away. I stared at those first pictures of the bomb site over and over again, trying to see anything that would make it make sense.
And of course there isn’t. Anything.
I kept wanting to say I was saturated by the images. Wrong word. But still I kept looking. A woman on the ground looking at her leg in a tourniquet, a person in a wheelchair with something blown off.
I was compelled to bear witness. It was a humanity I owed to them, to really look at them as people, not just images. I looked for details…to really notice them: jewelry, a t-shirt logo, black stretch pants, Nike running shoes, a sweater tied around a waist, a cute purse, a face in shock–bleeding, with or without limbs, fear and soot masking an uncomprehending face, but still a person.
If they were still people, if I didn’t shield myself from their pain, then maybe I could put a small part of the good of humanity back in against the horrible objectification that makes it possible to harm others, that comes when compassion for others has left because the soul is so alone.
Some of the news outlets started putting names to faces immediately. They started telling the stories of these people, who they are, how they got to be standing in the exact spot they were standing on when the bomb went off. They’ve been telling the stories and following the survivors on their journey back towards….towards what? Healing? Wholeness?
One woman is Celeste Corcoran (careful this picture is graphic). I first watched an interview with her brother-in-law, who told the story of how he and his children came to watch his wife (Celeste’s sister) run her first marathon. Celeste is a hairdresser on Newbury street, so she has a parking space, so they all came down to cheer. Her daughter Sydney is in another of the pictures I couldn’t stop looking at.
Then a week or so later I saw this video of amputee Marines visiting Celeste in her hospital room. And I sobbed through the whole thing. I was so touched by the circle of healing, how out of our wounds we can give love and life back to another suffering person……
Then yesterday and today there was an interview on NPR, aired in two parts, that gives us a chance to understand more about Celeste’s and Sydney’s journey, as well as that visit from the Marines. Celeste says that when Marine Gabe Martinez came into her room, she was truly in a dark place. She was grateful and comforted that they had survived and would spend their lives together, but she was grieving the loss of her independence. Of course she was.
Her version of how his visit affected her made me so incredibly grateful I chose to follow the story. “After I met them, it was like this … this little spark,” she says. “You know, it’s really going to be OK. Before then, I knew I was going to live. I knew my loved ones were going to be around me. But the independent me … after that point, it was like I got it that the sky’s the limit. Nothing was taken from me that I can’t get back. I can even be better than I was before.”
Think about that as a metaphor for all of our losses. Nothing is taken from us that we can’t reclaim. We can be even more magnificent than we were before.
Do yourself a solid and listen to the whole story, though. It’s so much more beautiful listening to Celeste say it in her own way, in her own voice.
P.S. If you listen until the end, you’ll hear about a miracle. The bomb went off just as the shift was changing at the area hospitals. So that meant twice as many staff in the building to help with the onslaught of wounded pouring in.