Tragedy strikes at Boston Marathon

                                                                                                                  Photo: Sonia Su/Boston Marathon

During the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded, about thirteen seconds apart, near the finish line on Boylston Street in Boston, Mass. Three spectators were killed in the bombings: Krystle Campbell, 29, a female restaurant manager from Medford, Massachusetts; Lü Lingzi, 23, a female Boston University graduate student who was a Chinese national from Shenyang, Liaoning; and Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy from the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston.

There were approximately 280 other people injured. The injuries were said to be grievous, requiring intensive care, and appeared to be “war-like injuries” of mutilation, shrapnel wounds, and dismemberment.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was in charge of the investigation in collabation with state and local authorities.

The men were identified, quickly, with help from the public as the brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Following the release of the photos, the suspects allegedly killed an MIT police officer, carjacked an SUV, and engaged in a shootout with the police in Watertown, Massachusetts, during which an MBTA police officer was critically injured and Tamerlan Tsarnaev was fatally injured.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was injured but escaped, and an unprecedented manhunt ensued, with thousands of police searching a 20-block area of Watertown. On April 19, the authorities asked residents of Watertown and surrounding areas, including Boston, to stay indoors, and the public transportation system and most businesses and public institutions were shut down.

Dzhokhar was later found, in the backyard of a resident of  Watertown, hiding in a boat.

He was then arrested and taken to a hospital. Dzhokhar was charged on April 22, while still confined to a hospital bed, with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and with malicious destruction of property resulting in death.

President Barack Obama spoke at the interfaith service in Boston, April 18
Photo: NEC-UMC

An interfaith service brings comfort and affirmation

Alexx Wood*

NEC-UMC — More than 2,000 religious leaders, civic and government leaders, invited guests and community members drew together during an interfaith prayer service, held [the morning of 4/18/13] at Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, Governor Deval Patrick, and Mayor Thomas Menino were in attendance at the service to offer support and encouragement for the City of Boston. The service was jointly organized through the governor’s office and with religious leaders from dozens of faith traditions, representing both diversity and unity among Boston’s religious communities and a significant collaboration with political leaders.

President Obama brought words of comfort to the families that lost loved ones, personally memorializing each one by name and with a brief remembrance. He offered prayers for those injured in the blasts, and it became clear as he spoke that his message to them was also meant for the whole city. “As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you. Your commonwealth is with you. Your country is with you. We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again. You will run again!”

He offered gratitude for all of the public service workers, doctors and nurses, the National Guard, police, fire and other first responders, and for the citizens of Boston who responded so immediately and immensely.

He also spoke of perseverance.

“Scripture tells us to ‘run with endurance the race that’s set before us,” he said, citing Hebrews 12:1.

As he closed his message, the President spoke words of praise and encouragement for the resilient and enduring spirit of people of Boston.

“We may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we’ll pick ourselves up. We’ll keep going. We will finish the race. And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us … to persevere. To not grow weary. To not get faint. Even when it hurts. Even when our heart aches. We summon the strength that maybe we   didn’t even know we had, and we carry on. We finish the race. We finish the race.”

New England Conference Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, was part of a delegation of religious leaders and was present at the service along with district superintendent Rev. LaTrelle Miller Easterling, and Rev. Marion Easterling of Old West Church in Boston. Also attending the service was Rev. Robert Hill, dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University. Helping to coordinate the interfaith delegation was the Rev. Laura Everett, a UCC pastor and the executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, of which the New England Conference is an active member.

Bishop Devadhar noted that before the service began, he and a few others had moved back a row to offer more space to accommodate the relatives of the victims of Monday’s bombing. Then he observed that “…also seated in front of us were beautiful youth of the Boston Children’s Chorus.” One young woman in the chorus was seen crying even as she sang.

“As I see these family members and young people, I am also grieving for the lives lost every day in the world through senseless human acts,” Devadhar said. He noted that experience seemed larger than the events of the city in the past few days, and it drew him to prayer. “The cathedral is packed with people and leaders of all faiths,” he said. “Wherever you are, kindly pray for the healing of our villages, towns and cities around the world.”

District Superintendent Easterling was also moved by sitting near the families and the children’s chorus. “My heart aches for the innocent victims, especially children and youth.”

Rev. Liz Walker of Roxbury Presbyterian Church opened the service with prayer and offered words of welcome to the interfaith religious leaders and the gathered community. A greeting was also shared by the Metropolitan Methodios, the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston.

After the openings and greetings, a clearly emotional Mayor Thomas Menino gave a reflection that shared his grief and his pain, but also his pride in the city he loves. “This is Boston, a city with courage, compassion, and strength that knows no bounds,” he said. “Nothing can tear down the resilience of this city.”

The Rev. Nancy Taylor, senior minister at Old South Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in Boston, spoke of the significance of the actions of those responding in the first moments after the explosions.  “I saw people running toward the danger, making of themselves sacraments of mercy.” Rabbi Ronne Friedman, senior rabbi of Temple Israel, Boston, added to the depth of her words with a reading in Hebrew from Psalm 147, translated: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (v3).

The reflections and readings continued to weave a tapestry of grace, strength, and healing for the city. Among the speakers were Nasser S. Wedaddy, chair of the New England Interfaith Council and civil rights outreach director of American Islamic Congress; the Rev. Roberto Miranda, senior pastor of Congregación León de Judá, Roxbury; Bishop John M. Borders II, senior pastor, Morning Star Baptist Church, Mattapan; and Roman Catholic Cardinal Seán O’Malley, who also gave the final blessing as the service ended.

As Gov. Patrick rose to speak, he shared that his faith tradition teaches: “In everything give thanks.” He said that on Monday, he had a hard time finding a way to do that. But then Patrick, who is Presbyterian, shared that he believed the nature of faith “is learning to return to the lessons even when they don’t make sense, when they defy logic.”

His voice lifted as he began to give thanks for all who responded with courage and compassion. “We will remember, I hope and pray, after the buzz of Boylston Street is back and the media has turned its attention elsewhere, that the grace this tragedy exposed is the best of who we are.”

*New England Conference-United Methodist Church