As I started to watch the footage of the Boston Marathon bombing and saw 78-year-old Bill Iffrig being blown off his feet, I thought that he, like so many others, was going to be horrifically injured.
I was appalled to see other competitors just weave around his prone body in their desire to get to the finish line. However my indignation was put on hold as Bill was helped to his feet by police and race officials and tenderly followed suit to successfully complete his 3rd Boston and 45th marathon – with a time of four hours and three minutes. He was quoted as saying: “After you’ve run 26 miles, you’re not going to stop there” and I finally stopped my judgement of the other runners and saw the whole thing from a different perspective.
Obviously expert help was needed to tend to the injured, and the race was finally stopped, but what would have been gained if all those other runners near the finish line stopped, or turned around and ran the other way? The terrorist/s would have won. This is the point of terrorism, to make shocking brutal death intrude into the most mundane and habitual aspects of everyday life so that we become unnerved, lose our comfort zone, trust no one and abandon our dreams.
The Boston marathoners who said to hell with bombs – and who may be a little mad like most runners are – reminded me of the stoic London commuters who got straight back on the Tube after the 2005 bombings. Military reprisals and SWAT raids might make impressive TV footage, but nothing says “we will not be broken” quite as effectively as a citizenry which quietly thumbs their noses at bullies and carries on regardless.