They say a picture is worth a thousand words. How many billions of words then, were unspoken as the people of our country and around the world struggled to look at the photographs from Boston. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who saw them through winced eyes; the sight of the destruction and pain, the anguish and fear was almost unbearable. Tangled among shots of fractured souls were pictures of heroes-trained and untrained-battling against time, running a race that required no special shoes, clothing or endurance training. These heroes didn’t register in advance, didn’t have a start or finish time, didn’t know what to expect, and received no medals … they just showed up and did heroic work. I could only gaze at these images and utter a whispered thank you to people I will never know.
Throughout the five days that rocked Boston and the entire country, I scoured each and every picture I saw. I couldn’t help it. Faces of strangers whose eyes told stories I didn’t want to hear, drew me in and made me listen. I thought it ironic that although the faces were all “new”, there was nothing new about the raw emotions that were dripping from the pages. We have seen them before, and I imagine we’ll see them again. What a sickening thought.
Then came the pictures of a defiant city struggling to walk directly into the storm. They did it … together. With a profound sense of purpose, the citizens of Boston locked arms and rallied – for themselves, for their families, for the victims whose fragile healing is underway, and for those whose healing was never to be. Images of deserted streets and businesses littered the paper; they did what was asked of them, sacrificed some freedoms, and miraculously uncovered justice at the end of a torturous week.
On Saturday, after five days of listening, watching, and holding my breath, the tension seemed to release its grip. I think I even exhaled. That’s when I saw another picture, an eerie, chilling shot that stopped me in my tracks. It was of the ‘suspect with the white hat’, the younger brother, one of the alleged Boston Marathon Bombers. Captured at last, he lay on the ground, hands behind his back, bloodied and defeated; his rail thin body being simultaneously tended to and searched. I stared at him. How could this person, so small and insignificant, have wreaked so much havoc? This one person shut down an entire city. This one person.
That’s when it hit me. If it’s possible for one or two people to turn our world upside down with negative power, is it also possible for the opposite to be true? Of course it is, absolutely. We hear people say, “What can I do … I’m only one person.” Well, we’ve seen what one person can do in an attempt to destroy us, what could one person do to build us up?
The one person mindset has viral qualities; it is contagious power that cannot be underestimated. Look around and look within … it’s everywhere. It’s what summons the human spirit to re-ignite when it appears to have been extinguished. Oh yes, one person most definitely can be a force for good. There will always be evil, but its flame can be smothered by one person, who likely joins with another. The two become twenty, the twenty become hundreds or thousands, and suddenly one person becomes a force, a community of people who value each other enough to step up, to take a stand, to make a difference.
In April of 2013, an edited version of this essay appeared in the Buffalo News as ”We Can Wipe Out Evil If We Stick Together”.