I have spent the last year training for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon. I am not your typical runner. I did not run distance in high school or college. I am short and a bit square.
Two years ago I went to watch the Pittsburgh Marathon because two of my friends were running it. All the different types of people running inspired me. There were young girls and old men. There were serious runners keeping pace and others trying to finish upright. All along the streets were people cheering the runners on, all the runners, their friends, neighbors, and strangers. It was a whole community experience, one I wanted to be a part of.
When I started training for the half marathon, a friend of mine decided to train and run the race with me. Another friend of mine—we have daughters the same age—was an elite runner in college and now coaches the cross country team. He gave me a few training tips but, more importantly, told me about a number of running trails in the area. I started talking about running with one of our graduating seniors—he is heading to Boston College for graduate school in the fall—as he is one of the leaders on the track and cross country teams.
When I heard the news about the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I felt incredible sadness. I thought of all of the friendships and relationships forged by the runners over the time they spent qualifying for Boston and training for the race. I thought of the many friends who traveled to watch the race, sitting on the sides, cheering for all the runners and, for a few seconds, the person they came to support.
Although nothing is confirmed, it does look like it is an act of terrorism. It destroyed bodies and building. It killed at least three people and injured over 100, severing limbs of several of them. Terrorism’s damage does not stop there. This bombing sows fear throughout our society. What was a community event of celebration and pride, now is one tainted by trepidation and worry. We become a little more wary, a little more cautious. Instead of my memory of the Pittsburgh Marathon from two years ago of people running together and crowds supporting everyone who passed, there will now be a somber air, a slight fear, and a question about why people are racing at all.
As Elizabeth Newman said in her book Untamed Hospitality, Christians should be governed by their loves and not their fears. Terrorism seeks to control society by reorienting the whole of it by fear. I hope we can resist this temptation. We must address the security challenges raised by this incident, but we must also overcome terrorism’s attempt to weaken the bonds of community through fear and distrust. We must persist in our friendships and relationships. We must persist in trust, in building up our community, in not focusing only on safety. We must persist in loving others.