I'm pissed at myself because I can't turn off the TV.
I want to. I want to shut out the events of this week, pretend that it's a world and a lifetime away instead of here.
No, I'm not in Boston. I didn't run in the marathon and I don't think I know anyone who did.
But I am a person. More specifically, I am a mother. And every time I see the picture of the 19 year old suspect flash on my screen I forget–for a brief moment–that he's (allegedly) a murderer and terrorist and instead think 'my God. He's a baby.'
Nineteen. I remember nineteen. I remember thinking I knew everything, and that there was nothing that could hurt me. I lived in Chicago at the time, away from family and the cocoon of the home I knew growing up. As big as that city was, it was no match for my nineteen year old attitude. I dared fate by riding the El at all hours of the night, walking through neighborhoods where my red hair and fair skin screamed that I didn't belong and sitting on the shore of Lake Michigan long after dark, earphones blaring, oblivious to the world and anything happening around me.
Now I am a mother with two sons. One's two years shy of nineteen, the other seven years shy. I look at them and can't imagine that either has thoughts of hurting himself or others. But some boys do; far too many as Newtown and Columbine and Aurora and Chicago can attest. As a mother–as a person–I desperately want to understand why.
But I know I likely never will.
Today I watch the news reports and listen to the young people on my TV, talking about how their nineteen year old classmate was 'a kind soul', quiet and seemingly just like them and I realize that the only thing I know in all of this is that "nice guys" aren't always good men.
I've learned that personally, of course, though anything that's happened in my life pales in comparison to what so many others are dealing with today. I can't imagine the heartbreak of the people who have been injured or lost loved ones in the Boston tragedy this week. But I think I forget, when the action is bigger than life on TV and consumes almost every tweet in my feed, that it's not just one big tragedy; it's a combination of countless tragedies that people are suffering not just as a collective with the world as witness, but in the privacy of their homes, their lives, their hearts.
When the TV screen changes from the baby face of the suspect to footage of manhunts and eerily deserted streets I forget–for a moment– that before this nineteen year old was a suspected terrorist on the run he was another mother's boy. Then he had thoughts that at some point turned into choices that devastated thousands of people. At some point he turned from the 'nice guy' others saw to the bad man everyone is now chasing, and I can't wrap my head around how that shift happens.
I wish I knew what flips that switch, but I don't. I don't know if it's nature or nurture or circumstance or illness or training or some twisted combination of those things and then some that turns some 'nice guys' into men who do terrible things.
All I know is that as a mom I can turn off the TV and tune into my two boys. I can love them, listen to them, nurture them, feed them, let them spend time with men I trust, celebrate what they do well, work on what they don't, teach them what I think it means to be a nice guy AND a good man and pray like crazy that they grow into men who will leave this world a better place than they found it in one way or another.
And I can tell them about the good men who were injured, like Richard Donohue, or lost their lives, like Sean Collier, because they were brave enough to live their lives protecting others. I can make sure they know that good people are grieving the loss of their loved ones Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard and Lingzi Lu and that those lives are the ones to look to and learn from.