I will never forget stopping dead in my tracks on my daily run on the afternoon of April 15, 2013, to hear a local deejay break into music through my earbuds to announce that there had been an attack at the Boston Marathon. Here I was on my own run and I could not believe what I was hearing. I immediately opened my CNN news app to find live streaming of the event as it was unfolding. The commentator eluded that although it was too soon to know for certain, the situation was being called a terrorist attack. The carnage I was seeing was unbelievable. This was not America. The scene I was witnessing was not one that typically happened here, and yet, it was. There was blood and people and more blood captured by CNN everywhere. The scenes I was seeing in the live feed looked like something out of a movie.

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This was undoubtedly one of the most surreal things I had ever witnessed. In that moment, it also became immensely personal for me. For the past year, I had started running. I had set a goal for myself that one day I would be competing in the Boston Marathon. On this day in particular, I chose to run during the time of the marathon so that I could gain a semblance of what it must have felt like for all the runners competing that day. But this was not supposed to happen. People from all around the world had trained extensively for this moment and for the chance to compete. Many traveled thousands of miles to get to Boston. The Marathon was in its 116th year and never in its history had anything like this occurred. Of course, we live in a much different world now than when the Boston Marathon began. When 9/11 occurred in 2001, America rebounded from that to stand firm on our soil like never before. There was little doubt that terrorism has been on the rise worldwide ever since, but never in a million years did anyone think that America would encounter another attack, and yet, it had.

In the days that followed, I found myself glued to the television set. I watched every single second of the drama that unfolded. Within twenty-four hours, the bombing had been confirmed as a terrorist attack and two suspects had been named who were captured on video footage prior to the attack with backpacks and mulling through the Boston crowd. As the events that followed continued to unfold, it had not truly hit me that this was real. The scenes coming out of Boston were unbelievable. By comparison, I do not think Hollywood could have created a better script for a major blockbuster movie thriller if they tried. But this was real in the worst possible way.

This experience left me very sad and discouraged. I was sad for the victims and their families. Three civilians lost their lives that day and 264 others were severely injured, including some who lost limbs. My heart wrenched in pain as I thought about those running as the bombs went off and being caught completely off guard in the most heinous of ways. What kind of person wishes to do harm to innocent people? It is unconscionable to think that someone could be sick enough to want to hurt another human being. That kind of sickness is grounded in pure evil that cannot begin to be understood by the rational mind. I think about how my own life has been affected due to this tragedy and blatant attack on our country. My own pain pales in great comparison to those who were there that day, both as participants and spectators, who watched in horror as the Marathon abruptly transitioned from a celebratory event to one of madness and chaos.

To be attacked on our soil once again by individuals who have a much distorted view of the world and reality seems like déjà vu. There is much to be learned from this. Even with all the strides and security measures our country has taken since 9/11, we are still susceptible to attack. If someone wishes to do us harm bad enough, they will find a way. Who would have ever thought the Boston Marathon would be a target where evil could unleash its reign of terror? But then, whoever thought terrorists would board planes, overtake them, and fly them into government buildings; killing and injuring thousands?

The greater lesson to be learned is that in the face of evil, America has always prevailed. We may be knocked down temporarily but evil only serves to inspire and motivate us for the greater, common good of all of mankind. What evil intends to kill, steal, and destroy, those it threatens fights back until it retreats. Americans are survivors. Many stories of survival have come out of the Boston Marathon bombing that pull at one’s heartstrings and bring hope and light to a very dark, tragic situation. In the three years since the attacks, participants who were injured or lost limbs have come fighting back by participating in the Boston Marathon since. If there ever was a proverbial fist shaking in the face of evil, it is when the individual who lost his or her leg, is running the race now with prosthesis and refusing to be defeated. Perhaps the greatest lesson to be gleaned from this experience, is that evil is only as big as we allow it to be. It would have been so easy for Boston officials to cancel all future Marathons moving forward and live in fear. That was not the case. It has continued on without incident and carried out the rich traditions of its history since that fateful day on April 15, 2013. We continue to be the shining beacon of hope that the world needs to see and to put evil in its place where it belongs.