WASHINGTON — You know the feeling. You wake up filled with dread but, still groggy, you can’t put your finger on the reason.
Possibilities flitter across the landscape of near-consciousness: An exam? A deadline? A speech? What day is it?
Oh, my God, Boston.
For longer than usual, you linger, head on pillow, breathing, thinking, I have my legs. Oh, my God.
“Boston will survive,” someone is saying on TV. The papers lead as expected. Drudge, Lucianne, Beast, HuffPo, Twitter. Two brothers each lost a leg. Horror.
And then, the worst thing happens. You get a grip. You speak to the neighbor. The workers arrive to fix the garden wall. The dog needs walking.
Life, as a matter of fact, goes on. But guilt nags. Isn’t it too soon to move along? You feel guilty for not suffering more on behalf of those who are suffering so acutely and so unimaginably. That man in the wheelchair – the runner with only a jagged bone where his leg used to be – will haunt happy moments forever.
Here we go.
From this point forward, everything that follows is now familiar: The soundtrack, the speculation, the newsy reminders that we don’t know anything yet but we’ll keep talking anyway, and what would we have newscasters do, really? Don’t we want to know as soon as there is something to know?
Everyone professes their love for Boston. We love the Red Sox and Patriots’ Day, Copley Square and Quincy Market. Those wonderful accents. Those tough citizens. All those smart people, their coffee shops and lobster rolls. Our Athens, somebody says.
How dare they? Those others, whoever they are. Someone’s at the door.
Breaking news: Mediaite.com has put together a “worst media reactions” list that makes us glad we don’t tweet. Commentators, feeling they must say something, say much they shouldn’t have. The day “I” went to Fenway Park. It’s those right-wing gun nuts. Clearly a Muslim. Round ’em up. Blame the gays. Where’s Bush?
President Obama, cool cat that he is, does and says nothing to damage his reputation. He’s on it. Justice will be done. Make no mistake.
More security, more intel, that’s what’s needed. Sure. More cameras, more spot checks, longer lines. The gift of terror isn’t fear; it’s loss of freedom. We are unafraid. Be very afraid.
“We want you to be vigilant,” says a stern official. “We do have a threat … but we want you to go about your business.” OK.
But who did it? The Taliban in Pakistan says, “Not us.” Would the real terrorist please stand up?
Black helicopter alert: Did someone really ask Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick whether the bombings were a “false flag” so government could take away our guns?
“No,” deadpans Patrick. “Next question?”
A radio jock says, “Something’s very fishy.” A badly burned Saudi student is a “person of interest.” Ban marathons, quips a poster (posts a quipster?) on National Review Online. Too many high-capacity runners. No race needs more than seven runners.
The jokes begin, not because anyone thinks anything is funny. Dark humor helps us breathe when reality is too terrible. Is it too soon to say unpleasant things about Roger Ebert? Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t mind.
“We have to be right all the time,” says Tom Ridge, former head of Homeland Security. Only police states get things “right” all the time. How do you screen 27,000 backpacks? You don’t.
Tagg Romney is talking. Huh? Oh, his office is near the bomb site. Got it. A doctor says many people lost their legs. So many acts of heroism. One doc ran the marathon, then went to work.
Parents of children from Newtown were among spectators watching the race, the last mile of which was dedicated to the 20 children and six adults who were killed by another maniac.
And now a word from our sponsors.
The psychic brutality of such events, whether an elementary school shooting or a bombing at the finish line of a marathon on a glorious spring day, is singularly too much. Cumulatively, they have a killing effect on the human soul. We can say all the right things and hug our children more tightly. We can make pronouncements and promises. But the deep, mortal wound of man’s inhumanity to man continues to be unfathomable.
The challenge isn’t only to prevent the next act of terror. It is to avoid becoming accustomed to the horror.
Washington Post Writers Group