It was bound to happen sooner or later, somewhere. There are just too many explosives out there. Too many sticks of dynamite sleeping in dark boxes. Too many bricks of plastic explosive gone AWOL from military bases. Too many cans of black powder stacked in neat rows on store shelves. Too many plain ol' chemicals that can be mixed into death in sweltering basements. Too many crazies. Too many axes to grind. Too many people who see politics and belief and the way people choose to live their lives as an immoveable stone that can only be changed the same way you change a stone: Blow it up. Split it asunder. Break it down so that it can be carted off to where they believe it should be. It had to happen sooner or later. Twelve years is a long time to wait for the other shoe to drop. Now we'll see whether we learned anything from the last time. The Observer hopes we all have.
It won't be easy. The centrifuge of tragedy spins confusion into fear and anger so quickly. Last night, while looking through page after page online, soaking up the insanity and carnage of it all, The Observer found himself filled with rage, clucking jingoistically over our military might and secretly hoping that it was some other country who did this so we could bomb them off the face of the planet: rain iron on their homes until they flee to the caves, then fill those caves with fire. The next thought, we were hoping that it was some domestic group: a bunch of twisted, hateful, dead-eyed monsters, drunk on dogma, that we can root out of their banner-hung hovels and then try, convict and execute — possibly from a bunting-bedecked, 20-man gallows on the National Mall — in order to show everyone that violence is never the way.
Yes, we realize that last sentence makes no sense. No, it's not rational. The Observer knows that. It's monstrous. It's wounded thinking. It's the same kind of thinking that had this country throwing away our civil liberties and moral authority in the world by handfuls 12 years ago. Seeing the footage played over and over, though — the bright, strangely pretty roll of fire and white smoke; the single runner crumbling, ankle turned under; the crowds disappearing behind the veil and then reappearing in a smashed heap like a horrible magic trick — we couldn't help it. We hated. We wished for the painful death of whoever had a hand in it. We felt the bitter spider of disgust for mankind in general building a web in our heart.
Then, however, we clicked a link, and somebody had posted a quote by Fred Rogers. Rather than explain to you what Mr. Rogers meant to The Observer as a boy we'll say this: As The Observer admits from time to time when we're in our cups, there have only been two celebrities whose death we have cried over. The first was Kurt Vonnegut. The other was Mr. Rogers.
This was the quote from Mr. Rogers someone had shared:
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."
So, The Observer went back to the footage. Instead of focusing on the orange, hateful roses that bloomed in Boston, and the carnage, and the blood, we looked at the aftermath. And what we saw was remarkable: regular people, not knowing what had happened or if danger still loomed, scrambling over the broken barricades to help the injured and the dying. We looked at the photos: People still in their running shorts and shoes, kneeling on hard pavement to help staunch blood. Cops and firefighters dashing into harm's way. A regular guy — clad in a T-shirt and an out-of-place cowboy hat — helping push a man the color of soot in a wheelchair, both his legs gone at the knees. The Observer could hear their voices: You're OK. Don't be afraid. You're going to make it. I'm here for you.
We are all OK. Don't be afraid. We are all going to make it. We're here for each other. This is our neighborhood.