The news is on. It is an endless loop of carnage and speculation. The only thing that changes is the talking head spinning catchphrases in front of it. There is an explosion and the runner falls. There is an explosion and people die for reasons that will always be meaningless. There is an explosion and the runner falls again. The talking head is asking a witness to explain exactly what they saw. The witness saw an explosion, and the witness saw the dying. Catchphrase. Loop. Carnage. Speculation.
I have seen the man in the orange shirt buckle from every angle. His race ended in slow motion—his bend unnatural and the finish line erased beneath a stampede of confusion. Then he is running again, and for a moment everything is just like we pictured it. For a moment he is happy. He runs. He buckles. He bends. He falls. Repeat.
Nothing changes in the footage. We want some sort of answer, but we are instead provided the stories of hope and heroes that we need to hear. We watch as people reacted just like we hope we all would.
But those people did not want our pats on their back. They did not want to remind us that humanity is as good as we need it to be. They did not want keys to the city, the attention of our Facebook updates, or to hold a stranger’s cracked body over a bloody sidewalk as their ears rang like so many church bells. Nobody wants to end their day a hero, because rising to the occasion means having an occasion to rise to, and days like today are best ended over pints of beer in bars full of the tired, laughing, and alive.
The news is on, breaking for hours across the bottom of the screen. It is bad and getting worse. There are terrible stories about innocent victims—neighbors, friends, and families. Two brothers each lost a leg. Others lost more. A young boy hugged his father, one last memory of pure joy, and then the explosion. Then the dying. All reasons are meaningless, and the only thing that changes is everything.