April 16th, 2013

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#709 – Dick Bernard: The Boston Marathon

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Yesterday morning, before 9 a.m., I was at the gym exercising at my usual place. Behind me, visible in the mirror, were two women, exercising beside each other and quite loudly chatting.

One of them mentioned to the other that her husband was in Boston, running the Marathon, checking in from time to time.

A few hours later I heard the news of the bombs at the finish line at the Marathon. This probably changed the woman’s conversation. Perhaps I’ll read in the Woodbury MN news something about this today or maybe next week…. Such is how communication goes these days. Instant and worldwide.

I got to thinking about two happenings in my own life.

Back on April 20, 1999, I was in the car on the freeway in north Minneapolis when I heard that there had been shooting at a school in Littleton, Colorado.

Littleton. That was where my son and family lived.

Soon enough, I learned my granddaughter, then 13 and in Middle School, was safe. No cell phones then. It was via e-mail.

I tried to find where Columbine high school was on the then-version of Mapquest. The school location on the map was misplaced, I soon learned. My son and family, it turned out, lived only a mile from the high school, and later he said he probably had seen the two killers the previous day in a local McDonalds restaurant – just three of the customers at that time, that day.

But in those days, communications was not quite so convenient or instant (though it was pretty good.) There were cell phones of a sort, but not ubiquitous like now. There was cable, but not hundreds of stations vying on the competitive edge for news. I don’t think I was thinking, then, about what has since become something of a mantra for me: “too many news people, too little news.”

Then I thought back further, to December 7, 1941, when my Uncle – Dad’s brother – went down with the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

I was alive then, just 1 1/2, so I didn’t pay much attention.

Dad told me about his memories of that awful time years later. They didn’t know for certain that his brother, Frank Bernard, had died until some weeks later. The time was so chaotic that I don’t think there was even an organized Memorial Service for Frank. His parent were in Long Beach for the winter and had no car (they traveled by train, then), his sister in Los Angeles, and his brother in rural North Dakota. Making even a phone call was not a routine matter. No television. Less radio. The news coming via newspaper – I have the clippings.

We tend to forget that.

And now we are besieged for hours upon hours by repetitive images of the same exact thing; by speculation by experts about who done it, and why it was done. Everybody with their own agenda for communicating whatever it is they choose to communicate.

We’re a big country, and such incidents will happen from time to time.

We used to worry about the Russians bombing our school in central North Dakota in the 1950s; now, well you know….

We need to get a grip and keep things in a bit better perspective.

It was bad, what happened in Boston, yesterday.

As a city and as a nation and as a world we’ll survive it.

We really have it pretty good, here.