John P. Kudel
As I wrote in a previous column, Bar Presidents are taught that some columns will write themselves. The idea for a column will be borne out of the events that take place during a President’s year. In past columns, I wrote about fishing with my son in Ocean City and about nearly drowning at a Bar Association event in North Carolina. This month’s column comes from the tragedy that took place on Monday, April 15, in Boston, Massachusetts.
I was returning from court around 2:45 p.m. on Monday afternoon. When I entered my building, the TV was displaying the first of many hundreds of images of terror and pain at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I stood there with several people and stared at the monitor, unable to comprehend what I was seeing. The images of death and injury were captured by photographers and videographers of professional and amateur status, by onlookers and supporters of the runners, and even by the runners themselves. In the early moments of the bombing, the networks replayed the blast over and over. Each replay showed a look of fear and terror on the faces of the victims and left an indelible image that remains seared into my psyche today.
Several images remain two weeks after the bombings. One is the image of Jeff Bauman, the man who lost both legs and was seen being wheeled away from the scene by first responders. I was riveted by the horrific nature of his injuries combined with the obvious look of shock on his face. I also noticed the determination on the faces of the three people who were assisting him. One of them, Carlos Arrendondo, is widely credited with saving Bauman’s life by his instant application of a tourniquet to both of his severed limbs.
Another image is that of Krystle Campbell. Someone took a picture of her lying on her back in the foreground with her eyes open while medical personnel tended to another woman behind her. I later learned that she, like the eight year old, Martin Richard, was killed instantly in the blast.
Likewise, I cannot erase the images of the woman with blonde hair who was sitting on the ground covered in blood or the runner who collapsed to the ground at the moment of the explosion. I do not know if he was struck by fragments from the bomb or knocked to the ground by the concussive effects of the blast. Two weeks after the bombing, I still find myself going to the Internet to view the pictures and read the stories of the survivors and those who came to their aid.
While I watched the videos over and over again, I began to realize that people who ran towards the injured greatly outnumbered those who ran away. If you watch the video in the seconds and minutes after the blast, you see scores of medical personnel, police, and ordinary citizens rush to the area of the blast. Clearly, these people put themselves in danger at a time when no one understood the nature or extent of the crisis. There is something very comforting and healing about watching strangers come to the aid of others who are in desperate need of help. Officials today report that the death toll was low due, in large part, to the immediate response by everyone at the scene.
“While I watched the videos over and over again, I began to realize that people who ran towards the injured greatly outnumbered those who ran away”
This column was borne out of terror and tragedy. Amid the death and destruction, the innate goodness in man emerges. Although the bombings took place in Boston, over four hundred miles away, we felt the pain and suffering here, and we grieved. We also celebrated the human spirit and the freedom we have as Americans.
The tragedy in Boston is the price we pay to live in a free and open society. These feelings were best summarized at our last Board of Governors meeting in Port Deposit when Paul Carlin, our Executive Director, read an excerpt from the actor Patton Oswalt, who posted on Facebook right after the bombings:
“Every once in a while, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness. But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak…. So when you spot violence or bigotry or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred, or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you and we always will.’”
This column is dedicated to the people of Boston, Massachusetts.