Around 3 p.m. yesterday I started getting text messages while I was at the gym with a friend who was visiting from Hellenic College-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Boston (my alma mater). He started getting texts, too. Then he started getting phone calls. I knew that many of our friends had gone to watch the marathon downtown and no one had heard from them since before the explosions. My stomach gave a lurch. I felt sick.
Like thousands of others with friends and family in Boston, we started desperately trying to find out if they were all right, if they were safe. Slowly, we heard back. “Steve is all right, they’d gone to watch the marathon but weren’t hurt.” “Dan was nearby, too, they’re ok.” “Nick just got back to campus, he’s ok.” “Gellers is fine.” Waves of relief. Facebook was covered in updates, too. “Just letting my family and friends know I’m safe.” “Walked back to campus from downtown, it was sobering.” “Praying for all those in Boston.” More relief.
But then I couldn’t help but think about those people who were not all right, who were not safe. While my circle of friends and family was unbroken, others’ was. Some people who were desperately trying to call their friend or loved one and couldn’t get through, would not get through. I was reminded of a powerful image of a cell phone pulled out of a car crash in which a young man had died and on the screen was a text message that would never be sent. And here, in a city I called my home for seven years, on the street I’d walked on countless times, there were now hundreds of people injured and multiple people killed, including a child. Then there are also all the things that my friends and countless others saw that will remain with them for the rest of their lives and that they will have to deal with.
I went to Vespers and sang this hymn to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God:
Beneath thy compassion do we flee, O Theotokos; disdain not our prayers in times of affliction; but do thou rescue us from perils, O only pure one, O only blessed one.
There isn’t anything I can write that will make it better. Heck, I don’t even know why I’m writing this, because it honestly doesn’t matter what I think. All I know is that evil does exist, and so does suffering and death. I know that human beings are flawed, broken creatures who need healing. And I believe in a loving God who sent his only-begotten Son to save us, a Son who suffered and died on the Cross, and by his suffering he saved and healed us. And I know that our Lord’s mother, Mary, suffered and wept, seeing her son crucified. When she sees us suffering, we who are also her children, she weeps and runs to comfort us. Beneath her compassion we flee. Beneath God’s compassion we flee. Beneath one another’s compassion we flee.
Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by thy grace. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.