Dear Friends in Christ,
Yesterday’s news from the finish line of the Boston Marathon was shocking. Patriot’s Day is a major holiday in Massachusetts, and Boston especially – stemming from our national history in the American Revolution. It is all about pride in our country’s history and who we are as a people. Boston, of course, was a primary center of the movement that resulted in our founding as an independent nation. Add to that the long and storied history of this particular marathon; it makes the emotional impact of this criminal action even greater.
Many of us know people who ran the race or had reason to be in Boston yesterday. For those are safe and well, we offer our thanksgivings. For those who suffered grievous harm, and especially for those who died, we offer our prayers.
While it may be some time before the perpetrators are caught, and their “reasons” for causing such mayhem are known, we must not let ourselves get down-hearted. As followers of Jesus, we know that evil exists; we only have to look back over our shoulder to Good Friday just a few short weeks ago to see the prime example of it. But we also know that God’s love and goodness are greater than evil, even when it rears its ugly head in our life. One very tangible example of that is the way the first responders ran towards the site of the explosions immediately. Some of you will have seen on Facebook the quotation from Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) that began making the rounds yesterday afternoon: “When I was a boy and 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.’ To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” God does work through each one of us: helping, caring, healing, stengthening, comforting, protecting. In that way, we act as Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
Below are two other items. One is the prayer that Preseiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori sent out yesterday. The other is a reflection written by Dr. Rene Rovtar, our Long Hill Township School Superintentdent who ran the marathon yesterday. It appeared in today’s Bernardsvill News. As it happens, Rene is related to the Thomas family who were very instrumental in the early days of All Saints’. Her great-aunt Gwen was our parish historian and head of the altar guild for many years. Her great-grandfather Nicholas built the Rath House. In offering her public reflection on her own private experience, Rene is serving the community by helping us to think about the meaning of yesterday’s events.
May the Peace of Christ be with you and those you love,
Gracious God, you walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. We pray that the suffering and terrorized be surrounded by the incarnate presence of the crucified and risen one. May every human being be reminded of the precious gift of life you entered to share with us. May our hearts be prierced with compassion for those who suffer, and for those who have inflicted this violence, for your love is the only healing balm we know. May the dead be received into your enfolding arms, and may your friends show the grieving they are not alone as they walk this vale of tears. All this we pray in the name of the one who walked this road to Calvary. Amen. ~ The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori
Basking Ridge woman shares her experience at Boston Marathon
By Rene Rovtar
The writer is a resident of Basking Ridge and superintendent of schools in the K-8 Long Hill Township School District.
I believe I have most likely run my last marathon, and I didn’t even finish it.
On Monday, April 15th, I was participating in the 117th Boston Marathon as part of the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge Team. This being my 10th Boston Marathon, I had previously decided that 10 was a nice round number and a good time to retire from this prestigious race.
Race day started as the previous 9 had. A wake up call from the hotel at 4:45 a.m. and a brisk walk in the pre-dawn chill to the Boston Common to board one of many yellow school buses for the ride west on the Mass Pike to Hopkinton where the race starts.
As part of the Dana Farber Team, we have a nice place to shelter at St. John’s Catholic Church in their all purpose room.
Shortly before 8 a.m., the church secretary came into the room and invited any interested runners to attend daily mass. Since there were more than two hours until my wave was scheduled to start the race, I decided to participate in the Mass. It was brief and because it was Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts, the homily focused on Tocqueville’s writing about what made America a great country.
The Mass ended with the priest asking runners to stand for a special blessing. The priest prayed for us to have a safe race and that God would watch over us. I have to believe that this gave me a little extra protection in keeping me off of Boylston Street when the bomb explosions occurred near the finish line of the race.
I was running a solid race (for me), hoping to get to the finish line around 4 hours and 25 minutes. As I was approaching the Massachusetts Avenue underpass, literally about 4 or 5 minutes from finishing, the runners in front of me came to an abrupt stop.
I’d never experienced a similar situation in a marathon.
My first thought was that there had been some type of serious medical emergency on the course and need to stop the flow of runners. Word quickly spread that there had been two bomb explosions with injuries.
The sirens instantly started blaring with police rushing to the scene and ambulances soon seen leaving the area.
I typically do not carry my cell phone with me when I race, but for whatever reason, decided to carry it with me today. Immediately upon hearing the news, I tried to call my husband, but the call would not go through. After several attempts, the call finally went through.
He was unaware of the situation, but I informed him what I knew and told him to try to get in touch with family and friends, since so many people knew that I was running and would be concerned.
I stood with my fellow runners, dazed and confused with this troubling news, for about five minutes. It started to sink in that there would be no finish to this race for us. Runners with cell phones freely shared them with others to allow people to communicate with family.
Thankfully I got my message out early because cell phone communication quickly became difficult as a result of service limitations imposed in an effort to minimize the potential for additional explosive devices to be detonated.
My priority became trying to get back to my hotel. The cool afternoon breeze was making me shiver, so I know I needed to get myself inside as quickly as possible. Due to the numerous road closures that the police put in place as they shut down the finish line vicinity and adjacent streets, this was no easy task.
I moved down several streets in the direction of my hotel only to reach a uniformed police officer telling me that the street was closed. I finally made my way back to my hotel, not knowing whether it was a safe place to be, but having little other choice due to the restricted flow of traffic in the area.
As I sit watching the local news coverage of the event, there are so many questions and very few answers.
We will simply have to wait for whatever information the investigators can uncover. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, it is profoundly upsetting to again be considering the implications of another seemingly terroristic attack.
Beyond the concern for the victims and their families, there is again a sense that our lives have been altered by this violent occurrence.
What is typically a joyous day with many runners celebrating a lifelong dream to run the oldest continuous marathon in America, setting a personal record, contributing to the millions of dollars which are raised each year for a wide variety of charities now has a black cloth of mourning draped over it.
Having come so close to being involved in this disaster, how could I ever contemplate participating in a major marathon like this again?
It defies comprehension that someone could have taken perhaps one of the purest sporting events known to man – one that only requires you to slip into a pair of shorts and a singlet, a bib number and lace up your sneakers – and place such deep doubt as to whether runners could continue to feel safe while participating in an event like this.
So while I am mourning for the victims of this tragedy, I am also mourning the probable permanent wounding of my cherished sport.
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