Riley Wilson ‘14
I spent four hours clapping on April 15th. I watched the first runner appear on the horizon of Washington Street, and I stood for four hours until the last runner passed me, ushered by the Poland Spring refill truck. As I geared up to leave, the last person on the street that wasn’t wearing a “Volunteer” vest, I passed a group of military personnel who were nothing but smiles and waves. I walked over Route 9 and headed home; I talked to the cop directing traffic about the fact that a year before, he had been called to the scene of a bank robbery in the middle of town. The entire walk home, I recalled the faces of the men and women who had passed me on the street; the elegant gazelles who didn’t respond to a clap, who didn’t reach out for water, juxtaposed with the puffing, smiling runners who had “Jerry” or “Miranda” emblazoned across their chest and waved in response to a yell of “You’ve got it!”
The inspiration of the men and women, young and old, fuelled my mind like adrenalin. If they could do it, why shouldn’t I strive to do the same? For a solid fifteen minutes, I was determined to run it in 2014.
Then I got home. And I turned on the news. And I saw.
I didn’t just see the looped video-recordings, shown for a lack of coverage, or listen to the voices of witnesses calling in with accounts of their experiences. I felt the pain of how quickly a perfectly tremendous day can morph into a tragic, traumatic scar on the face of a city.
I cannot begin to say, however, that my pain is anywhere near equivalent to the friends and families of the victims or those injured, and I cannot begin to pretend that my experience from the other side of a television screen was even close to the life-threatening experiences of the first responders on Bolyston street. The actions of the men and women, countless individuals who offered their lives, their help, their blood, their homes, their food, and their support, do not deserve to ever be forgotten. We salute you.
But in this time of tragedy, as the wound begins to heal, I recall another thing that struck me. The morning after, I read the newspaper—as innumerable others did—trying to find a sense of honesty in the media frenzy that was “the next 48.” In a society so deeply connected by the media—be it the television, social media updates, or the internet—I find a sense of security in the triple-checked facts of trustworthy news publications like The New York Times, or The Boston Globe. (The same, obviously, cannot be said for such “publications” as The New York Post.)
As I read the newspaper that morning, and for the week following, I couldn’t help but be struck by the fact that “the Boston Bombings manhunt” was making the front page, and yet—in the publication of The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, information regarding the fertiliser explosion in West, Texas sat on page 12 on April 19th. In the publication of USA Today on April 23rd—the U.S. Death Toll for U.S. service-members sat in a small square in the bottom corner of page two: 2,070. I wonder what global reports sat on the pages of the other news publications that our nation read for the two weeks following the events; I wonder how much coverage was given to the brutal killings, bombings, and attacks, that occured in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa on those same days. What makes one event of human brutality any more painfully important to front page coverage than another?
On April 18th, The Globe and Mail featured an editorial on the bombings, written by Kevin Patterson. In response to the savagery of the event, Patterson wrote that “human savagery can be duplicated by an endless list of misadventures in the home and on the street. A contused lung is not a bigger or lesser problem depending on whether an axe handle or a car bumper or an IED did the contusing…but it still matters that someone chose to do this.” The same can be said for the media coverage of human suffering. Why does coverage of the Boston Bombings require three pages—including the front—when the death toll of our U.S. troops sits in a two by two inch box on the bottom on page two?
Is human suffering equal? Do the lives taken in Boston on April 15th equate to a higher place on the totem pole to those in West, Texas., or those in the war-zone in Libya?
The media has a long way to go to avoid sensationalist coverage. The response to the tragedies that occurred in Boston are proof. Human savagery is human savagery is human savagery—no one wants to be a part of it, no one deserves to be affected by it, and no one should be forced to have to feel the pain of it.
The first step towards the finish line is acknowledging the fact that we, as a global community of people, have a long way to go.
Lest we forget the lives of those lost, and the actions of those who saved that number from increasing. May we have the hope that we will not have to reflect on such events ever again, but may we have the sense to realise that—without action—such hope is keeping us behind the pack.