Editorial: Sweeping up the shards of darkness in Boston and beyond

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In the blink of an eye, a beautiful and celebratory Patriots Day was shattered by unthinkable chaos. Twin explosions Monday tragically turned a joyous annual celebration that’s a big slice of life in Massachusetts into yet another national nightmare.

With at least three lives lost, more than 170 injured and many other lives changed forever, those responsible for Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings shook the ground and rattled our collective psyche. As terrible as the tragedy is, we recognize that it could have been much worse. Most of us were relieved to find out that our loved ones and friends made it home safely. That relief is dulled, however, knowing that many others weren’t so fortunate.

The pain hurts even more because it hit so close to home. For many of us here in Massachusetts, the area that became a crime scene is a place that holds many fond memories — whether it’s running in or watching the Boston Marathon, catching a Red Sox game at nearby Fenway Park, or simply enjoying a day of taking in the sights and sounds of the Back Bay. Now, many of these memories have become bittersweet. Our Patriots’ Day traditions will now hold a different place in our hearts and minds.

Fear, anger and vengeance are all natural reactions to a catastrophic, manmade tragedy of this magnitude. As Americans, we must not let such emotions take hold of our response. Giving into our deepest, darkest emotions would only serve to defeat us.

In recent months and years, our nation’s resolve has been tested by senseless acts of violence that have claimed innocent lives and terrorized Americans from coast to coast. But it’s important to view such events with a little perspective. We must remember that we are still fortunate to escape much of the violence that regularly plagues other parts of the world.

As we reflect on the Boston tragedy, we should also be grateful for all the selfless heroes who stepped up to help others. From the law enforcement personnel who ran into the chaos as others ran for their lives, to the medical personnel who expected to treat heat exhaustion and ended up treating injuries more reminiscent of a war zone. They are true heroes.

Those who came forward to donate blood and the many Boston residents who offered hospitality to those runners from distant places who were stranded in Boston displayed compassion that helped restore our faith in humanity.

As our nation collectively responds to this Patriots’ Day tragedy, may we be reminded of the wisdom of one of our nation’s early patriots, Benjamin Franklin. “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety,” Franklin warned.

Our founding fathers were clear in their belief that the nation’s ideal of liberty must not be undermined by an often unattainable desire for security. Despite all the liberties we have sacrificed and the tremendous price we have paid as a nation for the sake of security since 9/11, Monday’s bombings prove that, despite our best efforts, there is no way to guarantee safety. Do we keep sacrificing more liberties only to be lulled into a false sense of security? At one point does the cost become too steep?

As individuals and as a nation, we cannot become blinded by an irrational fear of the unknown. Any one of us could be the victim of an accident, an act of violence or an unfortunate victim of circumstance at any moment. There’s a miniscule chance we could be killed or injured in a terrorist attack. Dwelling on “what ifs” and becoming crippled by fear is no way to live and it’s certainly no way to decide public policy.

People tend to demand and take action after a tragedy. So what can we do? Pray for those affected by Monday’s events and hope for end to all this senseless violence. Fly the American flag to show solidarity and faith in our nation. Donate to relief efforts to help the victims. Be compassionate and comfort those who need it. Let the authorities do their work to bring those responsible to justice. Don’t spread more fear, make baseless assumptions or fuel speculation.

May we all do our part to lift our nation up to achieve its fullest potential, starting in our own communities. In doing so, our collective light will sweep up the shards of darkness. We’re naturally distressed in the wake of Monday’s Boston Marathon attacks, but let’s not become defeated.

Those who are dealing with feelings of stress or depression related to Monday’s bombings are encouraged to call the Disaster Distress HelpLine 1-800-985-5990 for free assistance.

Herald News of Fall River, Mass.