April 19, 1995: 4th grade, Bombing of the OKC Federal Building
April 19, 2013: 5th yr PhD student, Ongoing manhunt for terrorist responsible for Boston Marathon explosion and killing an MIT Police Officer on campus
What I remember from that day in the 4th grade was my teacher immediately becoming quiet and somber and making a brief announcement of the event. The silence in the room was heavy, but I didn't understand what her words meant- there's someone who did something bad? Why? Over the next days, I would experience this sadness permeating everywhere I went.
18 years have passed and it only gets harder to deal with a similar situation. It doesn't matter that the number of casualties are lower. My accumulation of knowledge does nothing to help me better understand why such events happen. The passing of time has just meant that I've seen more manifestations of the darkness that comes in this world. That's forced me to construct a framework of thinking in which it is feasible that a person could carry out a horrendous act on innocent people.
As I sit here in lock-down in my room, I'm reflecting and searching for hope. I am overwhelmed by the thought of evil infiltrating the very streets I take to the grocery store, to my office. I feel restricted, stuck. Looking outside shows me what evil results in: emptiness. In the moment, evil is terrifying. Afterwards, it leaves emptiness - just as empty as the streets now are devoid of people.
But the sun is beating down (for the first time in how many months?) and I watch two white birds flying gently back and forth across the river. I'm reminded of grace - the ultimate gift. God has already born the heaviness of sin and evil so that we need not be left with that emptiness.
To this day, Oklahoma residents remember and honor that horrific event in 1995. It's not merely a thing that happened in the past that we take a moment of silence for once a year. It's something that strongly shapes the attitude of humility, gratefulness, and love that people there live out.
Undoubtedly, something similar will happen here. Bostonians are tough and Cambridge is full of Type A personalities. It will take very little time for us to respond and re-define what it means to call this place home.
I'm encouraged by that- not just because we will experience a one-ness when the terror is over, but because that is a small picture of what God desires us to have with him. Through the most profound act of injustice, we are freely offered unity with God. And that is more than enough.