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Life According To Lenson

The Power Of Caring: Tragedy In Boston
Posted by Eileen Lenson on Apr 20, 2013 - 4:22:11 AM

Eileen Lenson
UNITED STATES—The 2013 Boston Marathon was interrupted by a gruesome act of terror.  The marathon finish line quickly transformed into a highly emotional situation following resounding booms from two horrific explosions.  One hundred and eighty-three men, women and children were wounded.  Three other innocent victims were killed.  Many victims, who lost limbs and suffered severe injuries, face a future of multiple corrective surgeries. 


With hundreds of thousands of spectators, and scores of contestants, the scene could have quickly reduced to chaos and confusion.  Instead, the overwhelming reaction of many attending the marathon was to altruistically look out for each other.  Instead of panicking, videos and attendees report that people purposefully ran into, rather than away from, the direction of the blasts. 


People acted rationally and intuitively, employing skills so that others could be saved.  Strong men quickly organized to pull the fallen scaffolding off of victims trapped underneath.  Others carried the badly wounded to safety.  Mothers consoled other parent's children.  People tore up their own clothing to make temporary tourniquets for the injured that were bleeding.


The community also responded with a tremendous outpouring of support. Neighbors brought water and food for first responders.  Restaurants provided free food to the stranded.  Runners offered to donate blood to local hospitals for the patients needing transfusions.  Temporary shelter in homes was offered to those in need. 


Many who had taken pictures or video around the time of the blast voluntarily supplied their cameras to the FBI, in the remote possibility they may have captured information that could lead to the capture of the perpetrator of the terrorist attack.


All tragedies are not equal.  It is more difficult for people to adjust to a tragedy that results from an intentional man-made as opposed to natural event.  The fact that people at the Boston marathon responded with courage and a strong impulse to selflessly help others rather than themselves does not mean that they will easily resume a sense of normalcy without behavioral and emotional difficulties in the weeks and months to come.


While there is no one 'right' way to react to the stress of surviving such a horrific event, stress needs to be reduced so that people can view their community as safe and predictable.  Two long distance runners, Frank Shorter and Bill Iffrig, looked at what they could control, as opposed to avoiding events, in an attempt to resume a sense of normalcy. 


At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Palestinian terrorists staged the first attack on a sporting event, kidnapping and killing 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team.  American Olympian, Frank Shorter, was nearby, but consciously decided to continue participating in the Olympics.  He went on to win the first United States gold medal for long distance running in 64 years. 


Bill Iffrig, a 78 year old participant at the 2013 Boston marathon, fell over from the force of the blast from the first bomb.  He got up with assistance from a medic, and although scratched and shaken, insisted on walking over the finish line.


Shorter and Iffrey demonstrate the qualities of long distance runners; determination, commitment, and an ability to keep focused on a desired goal.  They chose to keep running as a healthier option to avoiding events that potentially could have brought devastation to them.  Finishing the race is no guarantee that individuals with violent political agendas will not cross paths with them again.  Shorter knows that all too well, as he was one of the nearly 30,000 runners in this year's Boston marathon.


Today, we Americans will do well to learn from the acts of the Boston marathon runners, spectators, and surrounding community.  They showed determination and commitment.  Their power of caring demonstrates that while evil exists in our world, and sometimes penetrates our neighborhoods, our choices will preserve our empathy for humanity.  In the end, it is the compassion we feel for mankind that will be the best defense against terrorism.


Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, has 20 years experience as a psychotherapist.  Now in private practice as a life coach, she is available for consultations via telephone or in person at 949-244-5100.  For further information about Eileen, visit her website at 


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