I admit to the certain shallowness that comes with being a sports lover. I've struggled with, and written in the past about, my unease with my fondness for sports and competition, its vague, sometimes intangible, sometimes downright offensive grip on me, our nation, and much of the world.
Still, the connection is there. And events like today's bombings at the Boston Marathon become somehow more personal, in some way more horrific, when tied to an athletic event.
I can recall certain events in my life, remember my horror, unease, repulsion at learning of or watching tragedy unfold. JFK, Martin Luther King, RFK, the Challenger, 9/11. Just initials or a single word or a simple number spark a clear recognition and a sharp pain.
I didn't know it at the time, but as I watched the twin towers tumble on a perfect September day in a conference room on the 15th floor of a building in Charleston, West Virginia, I was watching two of my friends die. Just normal guys, living normal lives, whose cruel fate led them to that place, one in each tower, on that unthinkable day.
As news that came to me today that folks I know who were in Boston were safe I was comforted, but it stirred the recollection that soon a different kind of news would be delivered to stunned parents, children, friends.
In some ways, it seems worse to me when terror and tragedy are tied to an athletic competition. The Munich Olympics. The Atlanta Olympics. Organized or random, political statement or senseless act, the idea that someone would intentionally take the life of or cause harm to those competing or watching an athletic event makes the act all the more cruel and heartless, aimed most specifically at those who are demonstrating the best of what we are capable of.
That is even more true of today's events. At first, because of when the explosions occurred, I thought it couldn't have been a planned attack, because it didn't occur when the leaders finished. The statement, I thought, would have been coordinated to cause the maximum damage to the "stars" of the event when they finished some three hours earlier.
But that wasn't the plan, nor the statement. The statement is simply that we're not safe. Anywhere, wherever we gather, even if for the simple joy of competing, even if only to prove that we can do something that we never thought we were capable of, we are not safe. And no amount of planning or protection or surveillance can make us completely safe again.
Our reaction to this sobering reality can take one of two paths: surrender, or keep competing. Give in, or fight back, through a demonstration of human spirit and resilience. Courage can be spectacularly demonstrated through sports, just by competing.
My daughter is supposed to run in a half-marathon in Boston next month. On her 25th birthday no less. My first thought was that I hope they cancel the race. My second was that if they don't, I hope she doesn't run.
But she has to run, if they hold the race. She has to represent that part of all of us who state by our actions that, understanding the risks, we will still gather, we will still compete, we will still run.
Run Kelsey. Run.