I was reminded this week of the words spoken by Margaret Thatcher as she entered Downing Street for the first time. Quoting St Francis of Assisi she said that "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope". However, the reason these words popped into my head had nothing to do with Lady Thatcher's funeral this week, and everything to do with the horrendous events at the Boston Marathon this Monday just gone.
As better reporters than me have said this week, the Boston Marathon - in fact any and every marathon - is not just about running. It's not just about proving that you can run 26 miles, though that is a factor. It's about people coming together, to raise money and to raise awareness of causes. It's an occasion to have some fun, and to show that regardless of race, colour, or religion there is something that we can all share. Sadly, these very features that make a marathon so worthwhile are also the features that make it a tempting target for would be terrorists. If you are attempting to divide a nation through terror, what better way to do it than to attack a symbol of unity and togetherness?
But once again, those responsible for the attack on the Boston Marathon made the same mistake that all terrorists throughout the ages have made. They did not count on the resiliency of the human spirit. Just as in New York on 9/11 and in London on 7/7, in the midst of all the chaos people have come together and have shown that community is not that easily broken.
I'm not just talking about the members of the emergency services, who laid their lives on the line to help others, though they are important as well and deserve recognition for the work they do. I'm talking about the ordinary, everyday, unsung heroes of last Monday. Those who, upon hearing the explosions, immediately turned around and ran back so that they could help those caught up in the carnage. Or those who despite having just run a marathon, immediately ran to the Massachusetts General Hospital in order to donate blood. In fact so many people did that that the hospital had to ask people to stop as they already had more than enough. And in the days to come I'm sure we'll hear more such stories of heroism coming from Boston as the full story of that day gets told.
This is why terrorists will never win. Because no matter what they do, they cannot break the human spirit. It's tougher than anything they can throw at us. I was also reminded of a quote from the American political drama the West Wing, given in a speech by President Bartlet (the fictional president who is the hero of the drama) following an explosion that takes place in one episode.
"The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They're our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great".
We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. That is why we will always win.
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