Monday, April 29, 2013

4:09:44 into the 3rd Wave

Some people wake up on Monday mornings
Barring maelstrom and red flare warnings
With no explosion and no surprises
Perform a series of exercises

Andrew Bird, Simple x from the album Armchair Apocrypha
"After you've run 26 miles you're not going to stop there." 
Bill Iffrig, 3 meters from the finish line.
At 4 hours, 9 minutes and 44 seconds into the third wave 78 year old Bill Iffrig was steps away from completing his 3rd Boston Marathon when the first of two bombs detonated.  The concussive force knocked him off his feet and rendered him temporarily deaf.  As he lay crumpled, stunned on Boylston Street he attempted to make sense of the incomprehensible.  He saw the second bomb explode and his mind seized. He was immediately surrounded by police and race officials. As he lay on the pavement a volunteer helped him to his feet and offered him a wheel chair. Bill declined the chair and crossed the line on wobbly legs with ears ringing.  He then walked another 6 blocks to his hotel.    

A reporter later asked Bill why he declined the wheelchair to which he replied "After you've run 26 miles you're not going to stop there."

At 4:09:44 into the third wave chaos erupted and terror seized Boston. This is the exact instant that smart phones world wide lit up, including mine.  This is the nano-second that social media sites flooded the airwaves.  This is when the images of dismembered bodies and blood pouring flashed world wide.  We saw the chaos and the insanity... we saw it all in internet real time.

Of all the images from this tragic event this is the one that continues to haunts me. I am drawn to the fluorescent yellow police vests and the bright red of Bill's singlet. The vibrant colours show strength and yet they are contrasted with incredible vulnerability.  The wisp of Bill's grey hair, his age, the faded white line, the multi-national flags blowing stiff from the blast, the smoke, the chaos. 

But it's the wisp of hair that is the focal point.  I carried a blurry image of this photograph on my long run this morning. The wisp of hair. The red singlet.  The thinness of body. Legs buckling. Crumpled body. The incredible pragmatism of Bill's words ... you're not going to stop there... as if to challenge the evil head on.  A wisp of hair. A wisp of fate.  A wisp of humanity. 

Life is but a wisp.

I received an email from a friend at the finish line. He witnessed the carnage and the insanity in technicolor. He paraphrased Jack Layton's final words to our beloved nation... love is stronger than hate...  In the context of the evil abounding the words cause my eyes to brim with tears. It seems abundantly appropriate to repeat the words here in their entirety. 
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.
And we'll change the world.
Yes friends, it's a good day to be alive, but it is also sad.  Let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic on this day and on all days. 

When will you run today?