As images of anguish continue to stream through the news following the explosions that rocked the Boston Marathon, it’s the stories of kindness and humanity that are starting to take center stage.
The words of Fred Rogers, the avuncular steward of neighborliness, have become a mantra of sorts echoing around the tragedy on Boylston Street:
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."
And as Mr. Rogers’ memories gathered meme momentum on Facebook, his words rang true in real life. If there’s one thing to take away from the tragedy of April 15, it’s the incredible show of unsolicited help that has swelled in the aftermath of the explosions.
Countless news clips show first responders and ordinary people alike running toward, not away, from the blasts; the spirit of kindness oblivious to the dangers that may lay ahead. Marathon participants, fatigued by the draining endeavor of running 26.2 miles, went the extra mile.
Social media did what it does best, spreading the word quickly and connecting those in need with those who could help. Hashtag twitters like #Bostonhelp and #westandtogethe started pinging through the twittersphere. Restaurants became makeshift lounges, offering comfort and free food.
Ali Hatfield, a 26-year-old who traveled from Kansas City to run, finished the race before the blasts but then found herself homeless when her hotel was evacuated. Walking around aimlessly she and her friends were soon welcomed by residents, who poured out of their homes to offer a hand, Hatfield told NBC News.
“The people that lived in the brownstones surrounding us just started bringing everybody out there blankets, food, orange juice, coffee, offering their homes for anybody that needed to get warm … anything they needed,” said Hatfield. “So many of the marathon runners around us had not been able to put on their clothes after the race. They were still in tank tops and shorts, they were freezing. … The people were just amazing.”
Boston.com also came to the rescue by ingeniously creating a Google doc as a way to connect people in need of housing or transportation with local volunteers wanting to help. And beyond acting as an efficient hub of altruism, the spreadsheet has become an online testament of our inherent goodwill. Thousands of listing with names, phone numbers and accommodations fill the page with offers of futons, inflatable mattresses, guest rooms, dinner, and maybe most important of all, the simple gesture of offering comfort and kindness to strangers in need. "This is my home and I don't want anyone to feel alone. Dinner is on me!" says one well-doer. "2 bedrooms--bird--ducks--on water--can cook vegan," offers another. In addition, Google itself has launched a people finder app to help locate loved ones.
In cities near and far, messages of love and encouragement are being conveyed in support of Boston and all who have been touched by the tragedy. On the exterior face of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the artist known as The Illuminator projected a series of poignant messages (see video below), reminding us all that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”
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