Reflections on the Boston Marathon Crisis

I’m a native Bostonian, born and raised in the city that is now emerging from its greatest modern-day trauma. The streets where the surreal events of mid-April unfolded are familiar territory. I’ve been at the marathon finish line more than once to cheer on runners from around the world as they complete their epic run. One of our TSNE co-workers was locked down in her Watertown home at the center of the action, first sent by police to her basement for safety, later watching SWAT teams out her window as they methodically swept her neighborhood.

I’m a native Bostonian, born and raised in the city that is now emerging from its greatest modern-day trauma. The streets where the surreal events of mid-April unfolded are familiar territory. I’ve been at the marathon finish line more than once to cheer on runners from around the world as they complete their epic run. One of our TSNE co-workers was locked down in her Watertown home at the center of the action, first sent by police to her basement for safety, later watching SWAT teams out her window as they methodically swept her neighborhood.

So this feels personal. I’m shocked that such a senseless act happened here but I’m also intensely proud of the character my fellow Bostonians showed in response to such horrific events. Despite our differences, in this crisis our common humanity took over. People who are notoriously independent minded and skeptical of authority, who treat routine traffic laws as affronts to personal liberty, made no complaints about the citywide lockdown, “not out of fear but out of civic respect” as one citizen told a Boston Globe reporter.

In times of crisis, one hopes for civic leadership that reflects the best in us, that speaks not to our fears but to our highest values, that reminds us what it means to be part of a true community. In my experience those hopes are not often realized but this week was different. I was moved and inspired by the words of Gov. Deval Patrick and President Obama, first at the interfaith service on Thursday and later, after the capture of the perpetrator on Friday night.

It wasn’t just that they spoke compassionately about the victims or that they effectively marshaled the resources necessary to maintain public safety and capture the evildoers. Important as those things were, what was most remarkable to me was both men’s references to the rule of law, to the values that have made this country unique, a destination of choice for so many immigrants for so many decades. Governor Patrick spoke of “accountability without vengeance”. President Obama reminded us that “the American sprit includes staying true to the unity and diversity that makes us strong” and that we should “take care not to rush to judgment ... certainly not about entire groups of people.”

The robust nonprofit sector – here in Massachusetts and all around the country - is also a reflection of those values. We enable, reflect and express the best impulses of the communities we serve, day after day. That’s why I’m honored to be part of our nonprofit community and to lead an organization whose mission is securely grounded in principles of equity and social justice.

- April 23, 2013

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