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Climbing Heartbreak Hill -- William Rivers Pitt

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, activists, americans, Boston, bombs, children, crime, culture, death, dishonesty, education, ethics, family, freedoms, government, law, media, murder, police, politics, rights, safety, society, violence )

- 1888 days ago -
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters, with four dead and eleven wounded.

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Kit B (276)
Wednesday April 17, 2013, 3:00 pm
Mourners during a candlelight vigil on the Boston Common for those killed and injured on Monday in the explosions at the Boston Marathon, in Boston, April 16, 2013. (Photo: Eric Thayer / The New York Times)

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won't even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.

- Yehuda Amichai, "The Diameter of the Bomb"

When you're in a car, or taking a leisurely stroll, it hardly seems menacing at all. Less than half a mile long and rising only 88 feet, it does not even merit mention from a geological point of view. Hell, 364 days of the year, it's barely there, just a long lump on Commonwealth Avenue in the city of Newton, Massachusetts...but on one special day, a day like no other around here, that half-mile becomes an eater of souls, elongated agony, a place of definitions.

Beginning at the 20th mile of the Boston Marathon, Heartbreak Hill is where the glycogen in your muscles finally runs out, and there is you and the wall and the pain. If you reach the summit - if - you are greeted by the roaring cheers of Boston College students and thousands of other spectators. In the distance shines the top of the Prudential Tower, visible for the first time all day, and the sight of it carries the hard-won knowledge that you're almost at the end.

That's where I grew up, right at the top of Heartbreak Hill, and every Patriot's Day was a celebration of the newly arrived springtime, the community cheering on the runners, and of course, the people running the race. My favorite part every year is when Team Hoyt crests the Hill to the adulation of all. Rick Hoyt was born with cerebral palsy. In 1977, his father Dick pushed young Rick in a wheelchair while competing in a race, and Rick told him, "Dad, when I'm running, it feels like I'm not handicapped." Well, that was that; at 37 years of age, Dick Hoyt began race training by pushing a bag of cement in a wheelchair, and Team Hoyt was born. The father and son have run in 30 Boston Marathons and over a thousand endurance events. Just before this year's marathon, a beautiful bronze statue of the pair was unveiled in Boston.

The statue is wonderful, but for me, the emotions that come year after year watching Rick and Dick Hoyt defeat Heartbreak Hill on their way to Copley Square are something that can neither be quantified nor explained. It is the whole thing at once, all of it, and you are always larger in spirit for having seen it. Everyone weeps, and smiles, and cheers them as they pass, and it is only one small accent in the symphony of joy that is and has been Boston's best day for the last 117 years.

Rick and Dick Hoyt did not finish the marathon on Monday. They were stopped by race officials a mile from the finish line, along with thousands of other runners, when a pair of bombs left by a coward kicked the city in the heart. Somewhere in the bedlam, Dick Hoyt lost his wheelchair. A mile away, people had lost their legs and their lives as Boylston Street became a bloodbath filled with screams and sirens. In the blink of an eye, Boston became a member of a terrible fellowship that includes Belfast, Baghdad, London, Madrid, Tokyo, Oklahoma City, New York and many other places large and small. The price of admission: the cold, hard, awful, furious, terrified, empty feeling that comes when it has happened to you.

I know dozens of people who were within a mile of the explosions. One friend was waiting with her two young sons for her husband to finish the race, was between the bombs when they went off, and sought shelter inside a storefront as bedlam broke loose on the street. Another friend was 20 feet away from one of the bombs, and saw what was all over the sidewalk as the smoke billowed around him. You see, everyone goes into the city on Marathon Day, to eat and drink and meet friends and cheer on the runners and maybe take in the annual early ballgame if they manage to score a ticket. Those not enjoying the day are working in packed bars and restaurants. Everyone I know was there, and now everyone I know will have a very personal story to tell about where they were when the day we look forward to all year long became the stuff of nightmares.

Fred Rogers, the iconic children's television personality, once said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" This was Boston on Monday, too. Not just the police and medical professionals who were on the scene, whose instantaneous reaction absolutely and without doubt saved lives, but regular citizens as well, average people who suddenly found themselves in a war zone and ran toward the sound and the smoke to do what they could. They used lanyards and their own belts to place tourniquets on the wounded, and their actions also saved lives.

A number of the runners who were allowed to cross the finish line after the explosions, before officials shut it all down, did not stop running until they got to a hospital so they could donate blood. The Boston Red Cross was flooded with so many donors that they had to turn people away, eventually releasing a public statement letting everyone know they had more than enough. The exact same thing happened here after the attacks of September 11th, when the city rose up to reach out to our big brother down the road.

This is Boston. Like our brothers and sisters in this grim fellowship, we are made of sterner stuff. Whoever did this has already failed. They have murdered, and they have maimed, and they have utterly and completely failed. There will be a reckoning for those who thought it meet to shatter a crowd of families with bombs packed with nails and ball bearings, and may God help them, because no one else will. They have failed, because this is Boston, where we run to the sound and the smoke to help each other.

I do not know who did it, or why, but I do know this. One year from now, when the new spring sunlight shines down upon Boston's best day, we will be in the streets to cheer the runners and remember the lost. We will never forget, but we will not cower or crouch. We will be there with family and friends to celebrate the place and the time and the event that is uniquely and completely ours. It will not be taken from us by anyone, ever. This is Boston. If you want to find us this time next year, we will all be with Rick and Dick Hoyt, climbing Heartbreak Hill together.

By: William Rivers Pitt | OpEd | Truthout |

Kit B (276)
Wednesday April 17, 2013, 3:04 pm

Terrorist thrive on creating fear or terror. A sudden and unexpected shock from the sound and fury of a bomb or the crack of a rifle can do just that, but we are first Americans, and we are fearless. A terrorist may cause momentary disruption, may cause grief and pain, but will not defeat the American spirit within each us.

I believe the Boston Police and FBI will find this sub-human creature and this person will be brought to justice.

JL A (281)
Wednesday April 17, 2013, 5:47 pm
Thank you Kit for sharing this eloquent story that reports the whole context and full story and not just the horrific component.

Gene J (290)
Thursday April 18, 2013, 10:09 am
"Whoever did this has already failed. They have murdered, and they have maimed, and they have utterly and completely failed. There will be a reckoning for those who thought it meet to shatter a crowd of families with bombs packed with nails and ball bearings, and may God help them, because no one else will."

Wonderful story. I am glad there is no rush to judgment this time, apart from that first day, and I am saddened that we have gotten so good at tracking down monsters like these, because they make mistakes and leave clues and we have gained so much forensic expertise through practice after horrific events the world over. It is one thing to attack a thing, a refinery, a building, a symbol, it is quite another to attack people, men, women, children, innocents all, with deliberate intent to mutilate, kill and terrorize them. It takes a special kind of monster to do such things. And this world has far too many of them wandering around loose. My hope is that changes, that the world itself becomes so disgusted, not inured, by this kind of horror, that it eventually stops because every single time, those responsible are caught and need look to God for solace because they will not find it here. Someone knows, someone always knows. When those someones no longer harbor, but turn in what they know, every time, we may be on our way to becoming a civilization. Far from that now. But I have faith we will be, as soon as possible.

Past Member (0)
Thursday April 18, 2013, 4:13 pm
Thank you for sharing

pam w (139)
Thursday April 18, 2013, 5:45 pm
Gene, my friend, I alsways like reading your thoughts....and, on this one, I'm going to take issue with "those responsible are caught and need look to God for solace because they will not find it here."

+++++++++++ I submit that looking toward a diety for guidance, help and solace is the problem....not the solution.

Lois Jordan (63)
Friday April 19, 2013, 3:17 pm
Thanks, Kit. Latest news is one dead and a massive manhunt for the other. My hope is that we will find out what motivated this--we need answers.

Birgit W (160)
Friday April 19, 2013, 4:03 pm

marie C (163)
Friday April 19, 2013, 5:11 pm
Thanks Kit just saw news one has been shot the young 19 year old is still missing sorry Lois just seen you have already reported it

Kit B (276)
Friday April 19, 2013, 7:42 pm

The 19 year old has been captured, alive but in need of some medical treatment. I doubt we will ever really understand the reasoning behind this. I think to the rational mind it will seem insane. The Boston police and all police agencies involved deserve some thanks and appreciation.

reft h (66)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 12:21 am
thanks for the article

Lindsay K (6)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 2:36 am
A wicked act!

Kit B (276)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 10:01 am

I think bombers are a particular group of cowards. I know Boston and the city will recover and people there will embrace the victims and do their best to assist in the healing.

Connie O (44)
Wednesday April 24, 2013, 7:23 pm
Thank you for sharing.
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