Chaplain Reflects on Boston Tragedy

Dan McQuown, Albion College chaplainApril 17, 2013

Albion College Chaplain Dan McQuown shares his thoughts in the wake of the April 15 bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Difficult feelings come at tragic times. The twin bombings at the Boston Marathon brought a lot of those feelings—shared grief, fear, vulnerability, helplessness, anger, and confusion among others. That’s the purpose of terror, and a staple of the world post-9/11.

I’m particularly interested in how Albion College students respond. They are not children, nor are they completely in the adult world. Such horrific events affect them differently; they ask questions that are unique to their time of life—“What does this mean for the professional world I’m entering? I’m thinking about Boston or another big city for graduate school; will I be safe? What kind of civic society am I joining?” Some questions are the same for all ages—“Why do bad things happen to good people? Why violence? Why children? Where is God in all this?”

At times like this, we need to focus. It’s easy to get swept away in the difficult feelings and questions, or to avoid them altogether. Knee-jerk reactions are as useful as apathy. What helps most is focusing our minds and hearts:

Sacks' Experience

History professor Marcy Sacks ran in the marathon and spoke with WWJ-TV in Detroit.

April 20: Day of Interfaith Service

College student organizations will volunteer with multiple city of Albion partners from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. An interfaith dialogue follows at 4:30 p.m. at the Umbrella House. The event's calendar listing and Facebook page have more information.

  • Who are the people who were killed or injured, and who were the first responders? Who are the people who are working night and day to keep our country safe? Learning their stories brings them honor, and helps us to be inspired.

  • How can we stand with the running community? Solidarity by wearing race jerseys, posting on social media, and committing to more races is important. So is learning about the history of Boston and the Boston Marathon, and why this race is so big.

  • How else can I help in this particular incident? (e.g., Red Cross blood donations)

  • How can we make our future gatherings safe?

  • How can I make a difference in my community? How does my career help?

  • Prayer

  • How else can I help bring peace in this world?

I think we should all try to respond to these questions. Answering such questions means we care. And care is what makes our civic society great, makes our institutions thrive, and is the absolute best antidote to fear and violence.

I’m inspired by a quote from the Letter to the Hebrews in the Christian scriptures:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us …” —Hebrews 12:1a

In the case of yesterday’s tragedy, the “weight and the sin” would be our preclusion to knee-jerk reaction or apathy. We need to lay those down. Instead, we need to be inspired. The “race” we are called to run is for a higher calling of “love your neighbor as yourself.” The people of Boston who are responding to this incident are the ones who are inspiring through their witness. They are finishing yesterday’s tragic race with incredible faith and love. I hope we can do likewise, despite our tears and difficult feelings.