Forgiveness: A Personal Reflection on the Boston Marathon Attack of 2013

April 15, 2013, 3:00 PM: the Boston Marathon was changed forever. So were the lives of many people.

I was a nurse in Medical Tent A taking someone’s blood pressure when the first bomb went off. I thought there was something wrong with her blood pressure because I had never heard such a sound through my stethoscope before. I took my stethoscope out of my ears and then the second bomb went off. Our medical tent was there to provide first aid to runners needing help after running the 26.2 miles. Our usual complaints were exhaustion, nausea, dizziness, and weakness. In the space of just a few minutes we went from sophisticated first aid to trauma. We had to shuffle everything. Runners who could be discharged were escorted out. Runners who needed more attention were moved to another area in the tent. We were quickly told that patients were coming in with traumatic injuries because two bombs had exploded across the street from our tent.

Suddenly our patients were missing legs, hands, feet, had shrapnel wounds, bloody ears, carnage was everywhere. People were coming in dazed and covered with smoke debris. I had a couple of nurses turn to me and ask, how do we do this? I told them we have our supplies, we will use our knowledge and we will take care of the patients with whatever skills we can muster. We just needed to get them stabilized so they could be transported to area hospitals. At one point I threw my hands up in the air and asked if anyone wanted to pray. Several people came together and we started saying the Our Father. When I got to the part: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others, I found I couldn’t say those words. Instead I asked St. Michael the Archangel to protect us from the wicked snares of the devil. Forgiveness was not an option at that moment.

My heart will always go out to the victims of that awful event. I know that there are people who are still getting surgeries trying to correct injuries suffered that day. We treated over 250 people in just a couple of hours.

What I have learned reading Dr. Enright’s books on Forgiveness, is that it is never easy. Is there a difference when you have to learn to forgive someone who blew your leg off or when you have to forgive someone who has hurt you emotionally? Is one harder than the other?

In reading and appreciating the work of Dr. Enright I am learning that each situation is unique, but that the process of forgiving is universal.

On a personal note, I found that invoking St. Michael the Archangel, was part of the beginning of forgiveness. There is evil in the world. One of the first steps one must take on the forgiveness path is to acknowledge that one has been wronged. That evil action of inflicting incredible physical harm on innocent people was wrong and does deserve punishment. Our justice system will deal with the person accused.

Since reading about living “The Forgiving Life,” and trying to embrace it as I live with emotional hurts of my own, I am trying to follow the steps. I have become more aware of how many people have a need to forgive someone for something. As Dr. Enright writes, it is usually because of love being withdrawn. Does having someone withdraw love hurt less than someone losing a limb? Only someone who has lost a limb can answer that. I have not walked in those moccasins. I have had love withdrawn, physically and emotionally, and it is awful.

Reading Dr. Enright’s books has helped me start the path of living a forgiving life. Thank you, Dr. Enright. Please continue your most valuable work of teaching us that there is hope and that if we work on it, we can forgive others, but we must start with forgiving ourselves and acknowledging our own pain. Time will heal but so will following the right path.

Katie Powers

Editor’s Note: The shoe graphic above is the May 2013 cover photo of Boston Magazine (Photo by Mitch Feinberg). Each pair of shoes pictured was actually worn by a Boston Marathon runner in that year’s event. The caption in the middle of the photo reads: “We Will Finish The Race.” You can read the heart-rending stories of those runners in the May 2013 Boston Magazine cover story.

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Categories: Anger, Our Forgiveness Blog, Special Days, Trauma

5 comments

  1. Samantha says:

    Thank you, Katie, for sharing your story. That was such a difficult day for you. I am sure the forgiveness journey will be ongoing for awhile. I wish you the best on this. Thank you for serving that day.

  2. Deborah says:

    I agree that forgiveness is a good choice here. Yet, I can’t help but think that a period of righteous indignation is also appropriate. These unthinking and uncaring people are causing unnecessary havoc and death. What is worst is that they think they are doing this in the name of some higher calling which is so misguided.

  3. Charles says:

    I can only imagine how terribly difficult it would be to have been a runner wounded that day. I think it could take many months or even years to accomplish forgiveness in this case. Those who find it in their hearts to forgive are special people.

  4. Beth says:

    Thank you for your courage. I am encouraged to hear of your story of emotional recovery through forgiveness. Your story is inspiring.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Maybe I am not as far along as you on the path of forgiveness. I would find it very difficult to forgive someone for such utterly irrational behavior. Those who act like this without rational thought do nothing for their cause. If anything, they help people to see the bankruptcy of that cause.

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