‘Look for the helpers’: Tragedy brings out the best

April 15, 2013 will be a date remembered in America – right along with Dec. 14, 2012; Sept. 11, 2001; April 19, 1995 and countless others.

It was a day that shook many in this country right to their very cores. It seemed unfathomable that the Boston Marathon – possibly the least controversial national event to take place in America – would be the target of two hateful men with bombs in backpacks.

But it was.

And as the news concerning the Tsarnaev brothers continues to unfold, words like extremist and terrorist will forever be linked to their names.

As the world’s superpower, the United States of America will always be vulnerable to attacks by people who disagree with its ideals. We will always be called arrogant, ignorant and evil.

But images taken just seconds after the first bomb went off prove the true character of the people of this country.

Those images and videos, snapped by professional photographers and dazed onlookers alike, show three police officers, guns drawn, turning around to run toward the site of the blast. They show a man in a cowboy hat pinching the exposed femoral artery of an ashen-faced man in a wheelchair. They show a group of marathon onlookers rushing to the bomb site and pulling down a crowd-control fence in seconds to get to the injured people on the other side.

They show us running toward the danger – running to help those in need.

There was an image circulating around Facebook just after news of the bombings broke. I don’t typically care to look at these Internet memes, but one has stuck with me since that day.

Leave it to Mr. Rogers to find something comforting to say in the wake of such an unbelievable attack on innocent lives.

“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.'”

Fred Rogers, the beloved host of PBS’ long-running children’s show “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood,” wrote this in a parenting book published just before his death. Wise words, which went viral April 15.

I often consider after such tragic events building a cabin in the woods and shunning society. Some days it just feels too hard to see anything good. Especially in these last few months, when children and adults continue to be senselessly slaughtered.

After Sandy Hook, I thought about drawing up blueprints for the cabin. After Boston, I thought about pricing the materials.

But as I looked through those images – those horrifying images of bloody sidewalks and stunned people – I began to see something else.

Next to the injured were others who came to help.

I saw police officers carrying people away from danger. I saw a professional photographer with at least two cameras hanging from his neck pulling a fence down with all his might to reach people on the other side. I saw strangers comforting strangers and thousands of people lining streets to show their solidarity for the people affected by this tragedy.

Yes, the image of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old killed in the blasts, pops into my head almost daily, and I can’t help the tears that begin to well up. But what also pops into my head is the image of Carlos Arredondo, the cowboy-hat wearing father of a solider killed in the Iraq war, gripping the exposed artery of a man who later lost both his legs, but survived. Tears well up then too, but for an altogether different reason.

All I can say is thank you to the people that helped on April 15. You have shown me that in the worst of times, the people of this country shine the brightest.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is jstark@miningjournal.net.