The Boston Marathon Bombings rocked the United States on Monday, taking the lives of three and injuring hundreds of people. When you get past the atrocity of those numbers, there is still a unique but inexplicable emotion that lingers.

There is a distinct familiarity about a tragedy like in Boston, which sets it apart from other fatal catastrophes. Most of us have attended or participated in a race, be it a charity 5K or, for a select, gifted few, an actual marathon. Just this past weekend, we had the Best Buddies Autism Awareness 5K on campus.

It is way too easy to feel the mass panic and confusion that overcame each and every participant on that Monday in Boston. The initial shock and disruption of a perfect day and then the aftermath. A genuine fear for your own life coupled with an uncontrollable push to get yourself as far away as possible coupled with that weird desire to go help someone — all along with the heart-wrenching pain that you may have lost a loved one. It’s contradictory and impossible to describe, but it’s real.

Each and every American can see, touch, and feel every one of these battling emotions, and it’s angering. Angering is an understatement. It creates a vitriolic hatred for whatever piece of sh-t would plan and perpetuate the death of another human being. It is the kind of event that makes it hard to maintain complete faith in humanity.

For Meredith Lorch, a junior on the Emory track and field team from Concord, Mass. and one of many Emory students hailing from New England, the bombings hit close to home.

Lorch found about the bombings from an alert on her phone. Several of her friends were running in the Boston Marathon at the time of the bombings.

“I remember re-reading the headline a few times to make sure I read it right,” Lorch said. “I had been following the marathon and was excited to hear how U.S. runners Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher did — I never expected to hear news of such a tragedy first. As a runner and Boston native, I thought of my family, friends and those familiar streets… ”

Lorch used social media websites such as Facebook to help her locate friends who were running in the marathon.

“I was able to check up on my friends by checking up on Facebook statuses,” Lorch said. “It was just wild. It was unreal.”

With cellphone signals cut in Boston to prevent against bomb activation from remote locations, Lorch was just one of millions of Americans who turned to social media and the Internet to find answers in the bombings’ chaotic aftermath.

Google launched a Boston Marathon person finder service on their website, which allowed victims, Boston residents and their friends to report on their whereabouts.

Meanwhile, message boards such as Reddit became the breeding ground for discussion and gathering information.

Be it online, or the thousands of people who emerged as heroes on the ground at the site of the bombings, this horrible tragedy revealed the strength of our community.

“I’ve been really impressed by the outpouring of support for Boston and those affected that has come from across the nation, especially online and through Facebook and Twitter,” Lorch said. “It just shows how in the wake of tragedy, the natural impulse for people is to come together in solidarity.”

Perhaps paradoxically so, this tragedy, which elicits so much frustration, vitriol and undermines any faith in humanity, managed to do the very opposite.

Communities around America rallied in support of their fellow human beings. Be it the New York Yankees playing “Sweet Caroline” on Tuesday, the Emory community showing support for those affected or the thousands of runners who helped the wounded, the American people stepped back against terrorism.

Emory alum and Boston-resident Matthew O’Brien (’12C) took to Facebook after the tragedy and wrote, “something bad happens in Boston and I get messages from people in multiple countries and 3 different continents… #safeandloved #Boston-toughcity.”

A hashtag-ridden sign of the times, O’Brien’s status affirms the strength of a community which cannot be destroyed.

— By Nathaniel Ludewig 

Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Convention & Visitors, Flickr

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