Thursday, April 18, 2013

Monday's attack on Boston

Thank you, all of you, around the world, who have been sending expressions of love and peace and wishing us well here in Boston this week.

On Monday, I was working in my office on Tufts' Boston Campus a mile away when I heard of the attack.  In sadness, I watched the news on the computer screen and listened to the sirens going by outside.  Then, I biked home.

Others on my campus, with medical and emergency response training, rushed into action.  The Tufts Medical Center staff had trained for such an event and saved lives this day.

Yesterday afternoon, university leaders and chaplains of five faiths met with the Boston Campus community (including the medical and dental schools as well as my nutrition school).  Tufts has a big presence in the Boston Marathon, with a large team competing and many people volunteering and cheering on the runners.  We said poems and sang prayers in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.  People told of their work in the emergency room at Tufts Medical Center, as witnesses to the bombing itself, and as friends of the victims.  One student spoke of the third person who was killed, a graduate student in statistics at Boston University, so far from her home and family in China.

This attack did not teach me to feel vulnerable.  I have long known this already.

This week's attack on Boston was the second time in my life that I have been so close to a terrorist attack.  On September 11, I walked on foot across town and then across the National Mall from my USDA office on M street to pick up my 1-year-old son at the Department of Energy day care center.  As I crossed the Mall, I watched the smoke rising over the Pentagon across the Potomac River.  The day care center was empty, but there was a sign on the door telling me where to go pick him up from a nearby office.  I put my son in my child carrier backpack and walked several miles to my home in Columbia Heights, past block after block of stalled traffic evacuating the city.

And, though we seldom share much about such things in professional blogs, my Christian faith has a considerable focus on vulnerability.  I think about Jesus of Nazareth trying, without great success, to explain to his followers that he was not going to be the conquering invulnerable sort of leader they were expecting, or about pastor Martin Luther King in Memphis on the night before his death in 1968 basically explaining to his audience that he might die soon.

Vulnerability makes us stagger, but it needn't stop us outright.  I haven't posted here for a couple days, but I won't pause long.  Though it might seem oddly trivial, the next post you read on this blog will be about some small matter in U.S. food policy, and it won't be long in coming.

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