Once Seen, Some Things Can’t Be Unseen

I wish I hadn’t seen that.

After the Boston bombing, the photos on the news of Jeff Bauman being wheeled urgently from the scene in a wheelchair while people attending him worked frantically to stabilize him were blurred from the waist down.  I figured his injuries were particularly gory, but then an unaltered photo made its way onto my Facebook news feed.

Tattered, blackened shreds of skin hanging like torn leather.

Bare splintered bone.

A man in a cowboy hat pinching his artery closed in his bare hands (which is probably the single most important reason why Mr. Bauman is still alive).

I’m a big girl, you know.  I’m over 40.  I made it through medical school and residency.  I’ve given birth more than once (which is more than a little gory and messy).  I’ve treated injuries, managed wounds and performed surgeries.

Still, there are sights I don’t need to see.  That was one of them.  And I am horrified for all the twelve-year-olds who have Facebook accounts and saw it too.  Luckily my ten-year-old is still not on Facebook, and recent events may push his electronic coming-of-age back a few more years yet!

However, among all the terrible images of the Boston bombing there were many good images.  The police officer who delivered milk on Friday to a family in Watertown with small children so they didn’t have to venture out on the streets.  The emergency workers and ordinary citizens with first-aid training who worked side-by-side to triage and stabilize the wounded.  The runners who finished running 26.2 miles then instead of celebrating went directly to local hospitals to donate blood.

I am reminded of the wisdom of Fred Rodgers, host of one of my favorite TV programs when I was a child, who has frequently been quoted lately.  “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.”  There were helpers galore in Boston that terrifying week.  From small things to true heroism, the helpers are the ones who put Boston back on its feet and gave the frightened a reason to feel hopeful.

I’d like to salute one of the most amazing heroes of this newest chapter in America’s war on terrorism:  Jeff Bauman himself.  After being stabilized and going through surgery to finish the job the bomb started, he woke up and insisted on talking to the police.  After suffering amputation of both his legs, his first instinct was to help identify the bombers responsible for his injuries and those of the others hurt and killed.  Who knows how many lives he saved by identifying them so quickly?

These are the lessons and the images I’d like the world to see, so they mark and remember the resilience of Americans and our refusal to be afraid just because two madmen chose to bring violence to innocents on Patriot Day in one of the proudest American cities.  These are the images I want to remember and the images I will share with my sons.

God bless America!

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