My sister Kathy texted the news of the Boston Marathon bombing not long after it happened. We've run (walked) four marathons together, and each of us has completed five. We understand the months of training involved in running a marathon (26.2 miles from start to finish).
It's not only physical training but also mental. During my first marathon 20 years ago, I hyperventilated at mile eight in anticipation of the 18 miles ahead. We understand how exhausted and relieved the runners in Boston would have been as they approached the finish. But we cannot imagine the terror that ensued after the two bombs went off.
The location and timing of the bombing was particularly cruel: The end of the Boston Marathon on Patriots' Day, where runners were sure to be exhausted and well-wishers sure to be numerous.
Boston is a marathon known for its athleticism, (you have to qualify to enter, and I'd never been fast enough to qualify). The timing, too, carried significance. On Patriots' Day, Massachusetts's residents remember the Revolutionary War's first battles, in Lexington and Concord.
Evil delights in cruelty.
The bombs, reported as intended to maim, wounded more than 170 and killed three spectators. A number of runners who finished the marathon on Monday had one or more limbs amputated by the time they woke up on Tuesday. A family lost their 8-year-old son, Martin Richard, another family a 29-year-old daughter, Krystle Campbell. The third victim has been identified as a Chinese graduate student whose family has requested privacy.
The stories of heroism and calm at the time of the bombings are continuing to be revealed and spread. A man in a cowboy hat, Carlos Arredondo, helped save Jeff Bauman's life. Doctors who were at the scene to handle dehydration and muscle cramps wound up treating trauma instead.
President Barack Obama labeled the act for what it was: "This was a heinous and cowardly act. And, given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians; it is an act of terror. What we don't yet know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual."
Monday's incident marked the first time a terrorist bomb had been ignited on U.S. soil since 9/11.
When 9/11 occurred 12 years ago, my second child had just been born. As I rocked him at night at my home in Atlanta, Ga., planes from nearby Dobbins Air Reserve Base flew over our house, and I worried and wondered about the world in which he would grow up.
Evil is the only word that aptly describes a person (or persons) who would deliberately set off a bomb to maim people at the end of the Boston Marathon. Whatever the overall goal may have been, we can be certain that at least part of it was to instill terror.
Terror of walking through cities, terror of being out in public, terror of being vulnerable, terror of being at the wrong place at the wrong time by chance. Terror of heinous acts of evil that are unexpected, unanticipated, and uncontrollable.
What we do know is that vigilance, intelligence and communication have helped thwart others who have intended to commit acts of terrorism.
We also know that we are not defined by the actions of terrorists, but rather are defined by our own actions, like those who acted heroically on Monday: heroes who ran toward the blast, toward the wounded, rather than away. Heroes who saved the lives of the innocent and unsuspecting, while others had the goal of maiming and killing.
What kind of world do we live in? It's a world filled with goodness and light, but with evil still lurking in the darkness and edges.
In the end, goodness triumphs over evil; we just have to help make it so.
Jackie Gingrich Cushman is the co-author, along with her father, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of the book "5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours." Read more reports from Jackie Gingrich Cushman — Click Here Now.
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