From Boston to Syria

Originally reported on SensibleReason.com on September 23, 2013

After writing a piece about the conflict in Syria, I’ve come to form some opinions on the subject (surprise, surprise). Sifting through all of my research left me in shock in terms of how much terror this country has faced on a day-to-day basis for the past three years, and as a witness to the Boston Marathon Bombings I couldn’t help but feel for the innocent victims of this mass-violence.

From Boston to Syria, here are my thoughts.

On April 15, 2013 my city fell into the hands of terrorists. Two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three, physically injuring 264 civilians, and emotionally attacking the lives of thousands more. The bombings catapulted Boston into a period of previously unknown terror and vulnerability leading to a citizen-declared state of emergency that ensued for five days.

Following the Boston Marathon Bombings I was frozen in fear, glued to the Twitter updates on my phone and hoping for any advancement in the search for the bombers that stole my sense of security. I didn’t sleep, I hated going outside, and any Boston University Police Department alert I received sentenced me to immediate hysteria. Boston University’s crisis counselor Maureen Mahoney helped me make sense of the mess that was my sanity in the weeks to come.

“Every day we live in denial,” she said to me one day. “It’s a healthy denial, a denial that lets us continue with our daily lives.”

Would anyone have been at the finish line of the Boston Marathon if they believed that there was a very real possibility that two bombs would go off in that exact location that day? No. Yet it could happen. And it did happen. We live under a cloud of “that won’t happen to me;” that is the denial that keeps us going, the one that lets us live.

“Once that denial is stripped away, as it was after the Boston Marathon, we start to see the reality of these daily threats,” she said. “We become paralyzed in fear.”

Every screaming police siren, every Boston University alert to our phone immobilizes us: what now? we think. I can’t handle anything else. 

Luckily for us, the trepidation we felt was slowly able to disintegrate. There were no more bombs; the suspected bomber was found, taken into custody. Yes, this occurred after another excruciating week of terror, but it happened. Yes, we grieved, and we grieved for awhile, and still today, but in time we could walk outside without wondering where he was, and soon enough without seeing every backpack as a “suspicious package” that was sure to carry another bomb. We learned how to define ourselves again outside of the marathon bombings.

I realized this the other day as I ran my first Boston 5k race. Along the way I was met by a group of four or five 10-12 year olds who were giving runners high-fives as they passed, and two blocks further was a middle-aged woman who was pacing up and down her stretch of the street all by herself. “Don’t stop! You got this! Keep going!” she yelled at each runner loud enough for me to hear through my headphones. From the smiles on their faces I realized that the race was not a reminder of the terror that came at a similar venue just five months before it, but instead a celebration, a place of encouragement, and ultimately a feeling of triumph.Boston cannot will not be defined by the marathon bombings any longer.

Syrians are not that lucky.

For the past three years they haven’t had the amenity of denial that has been ever so graciously allotted to our society. Some have never known peace. Over 6 million of them have been “lucky” enough to be displaced, either internally or externally through generous acts of refuge, while the rest see days filled with increasing warfare on both sides of the conflict. They’ve seen their mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins, and their friends and neighbors murdered right before their eyes, all the while wondering if they’ll be next. They see bombs go off every day and watch as the radicals walk away unscathed, ready to attack again without a moments notice. Healthy denial does not exist.

After the recent acts of chemical warfare this concept of denial vs fear was brought to a new extreme. Over 1,300 innocent civilians were gassed to death in their sleep in just one night. Forget the fear that comes with war and terrorism… what happens when you’re forced to fear the mere act of living, of sleeping in your own home? 

I want it to be clear that I am not usually for United States intervention in any country; I do not believe that the United States should act as the world’s policeman and fix everyone else’s wrongs, meddle in everyone else’s private affairs. After Iraq and Afghanistan I’ve seen the toll it takes on our country as a whole, nevertheless the toll it takes on the soldiers themselves and the families that await their arrival home. I’ve been one of those families, and I am grateful each and every day that my soldier was lucky enough to make it home safe, although I will never truly know the extent of which the war affected her both mentally, physically, and emotionally. However, if the terrorism in Boston continued past that first week, if the fear that lived in the deepest parts of my gut and soul and kept me sheltered inside in anticipation of what was next to come stayed pitted there for weeks, months, and then years, I cannot say to you wholeheartedly that I would not hope and pray and wish every day for some greater power to intervene on my behalf. Because of that fact I hope for international intervention in some way, shape, or form in Syria. Not necessarily by the United States, but by someone, anyone.

From Boston to Syria, know that my heart is with you. Not with the extremist terrorist rebels, and not with dictator Bashar Assad’s harsh regime, but with the millions of innocents who are struck with fear every day, never knowing whether the market where they go every day to get simple necessities like bread and milk will be the next one to be bombed. I pray for your safety and resolve and hope that you see peace soon, both internally and externally. God Bless.

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