By On April 18th, 2013

Boston: Looking at tragedy from the edge

I lived in Boston for a number of years and have always regarded Boston as my second home after leaving New York City in the 1960’s and now residing in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon brought some issues closer to me as two of my adult children could have been at the event and in very close proximity to the explosions. One of my daughters is an accomplished triathlete and was thinking about watching the finish line with her friend who is also an athlete. By some stroke of luck they didn’t go to the race and my daughter left Boston about an hour before the explosion. My youngest son works at the restaurant located behind the site of one of the explosions on the weekends; fortunately he works his full-time job on Monday and was not there. The daughter of a long-time family friend was at the race and close by to the viewing stand at the finish line. She was there at the time of the explosion but escaped without harm. In a moment’s time the lives of two of four of my children and a young woman who I have known since infancy could have changed forever. I consider myself extremely lucky, but I am deeply disturbed over the senseless loss of life and the serious injuries and the psychological aftermath that has taken place for the people killed and injured in the bombing and their families.

On 9/11, I was in a dental chair in Tulsa, and the normally serene radio broadcast playing in the dentist’s office was broken with news of the World Trade Center Towers being hit by aircraft. After the second hit we realized that this was no accident. My connection to the World Trade Center goes back to my father who was a contractor on one of the towers and my sister who now runs the family business and is always in the neighborhood. Had my father been alive he would have tried to enlist the next day just as he did after Pearl Harbor. It took me days to finally get in touch with my sister due to the massive telephone problems. She was fine and not in the vicinity of the World Trade Center that day. In the days following the World Trade Center we asked the Hospital Chaplains to help the Brookhaven patients cope with their feelings and sense of vulnerability in the daily chapel services. I’ve never seen chapel so well attended and the bonds linking patients with each other and with staff members ever so strong.

When the Oklahoma City bombing occurred I was living in Tulsa and the CEO of Brookhaven Hospital. We dispatched several staff members to Oklahoma City to provide counseling support to the injured, their families and the first responders. Oklahoma is a small, normally quiet place to live. The thought that terrorism could come to the Heartland was unbelievable. Yet, it did. Some patients wanted to go home to be with their families, others to find a way to help and some others felt they needed to stay a few extra days. We all realized how fragile life can be.

I can’t imagine what the people, their families and the first responders go through in tragedies of this magnitude. We all sit in silent shock in front of the news shows as the images and the stories repeat. It is difficult to imagine being up close and personal with a tragedy like this. The author, Dennis Lehane wrote an Op Ed in the New York Times on April 17, 2013. He uses Boston as a back drop for his stories and develops characters that you suspect he knew and, perhaps still knows.  In his Op Ed, he focused on the resilience of the Boston citizens and the strength of the people in city to overcome tragedy. As we have seen in New York and in Oklahoma City, there is enormous strength in the community to bring people together to face tragedy and, over the course of time, to set their lives back on track in the best way they can. Some people will require more support to get beyond the immediate tragedy. That is not a sign of weakness; it is what they need to help rally their strengths to help themselves and their loved ones to move forward. We each need to reach out and help in the ways we can.

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