While we are fortunate enough to be able to go about our lives as normal today, let us pause for a moment to think of those who were sadly caught up in last night’s attack at the Boston Marathon. All the while, let us also offer thoughts and prayers to those who are killed and persecuted around the world in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, as we should every day.
The Boston marathon runners were not highly trained individuals sent in to dangerous situations, they were people doing something they loved, and many would have been raising money for charity. Volunteers would have been among those assisting and at the roadside.
The bombs were detonated at the finish line, a place where runners will tell you is usually full of joy, relief and great camaraderie. Yesterday, there was terror, fear but also great courage.
We heard of people putting their own lives in danger to head back towards the sites of the explosions to help those in need and runners kept going until they reached a hospital to give blood to help. A powerful message indeed: while the perpetrators represent the very worst of humanity, the reaction at the scene highlighted its very best qualities.
At times of great tragedy, so too will there will there be stories of heroism. Think of the emergency services at 9/11, the divers at Chernobyl who gave their lives to prevent an even bigger disaster, and the bus drivers in Lahore when the Sri Lankan team convoy was attacked.
I remember how the news broke on that day and as social media, and Twitter in particular, wasn’t quite as dominant as it is now, we were reliant on news agencies and TV reports for our information. There were pictures emerging, but through agencies, leaving journalists and editors with control over what went out into the public domain. Some of it we felt was too graphic for publication.
It doesn’t work like that anymore. Pictures of horrendous injuries, the aftermath and even videos of the explosion quickly spread, often without warning or a disclaimer as to their graphic content. Rumours will also quickly spread and there are those who will take advantage of such a disaster making fake accounts claiming to be donating funds for each follower or retweet.
In among the noise, however, social media played an important role. As mobile phone traffic was at first too heavy for the networks to cope with, and then blocked completely as a security precaution, anybody in the area was urged to use Twitter and Facebook to let relatives and friends know they were safe.
It also served as a way for for the authorities to update everybody about what was happening with regard to controlled explosions, street sweeps and the situation as it developed. In a rapidly changing world, technology doubtless helped calm a few nerves and helped people make sense of what was going on.
So we pause.
And think of those whose lives will never be the same again. Runners, volunteers, family members.
And on the day that we mourned those who were lost on the Titanic back in 1912, on the day that each year we become honorary Liverpool fans to remember the 96 who, in 1989, went to watch their team and never came home, we became Boston marathon runners, our thoughts with those who may never run again.