They’re painful. Uncomfortable. Three words that I’ve hated saying for years.
No, not “Tulowitzki’s injured again.”
Try instead “I don’t know.”
As a little kid, I hated saying it to my sister Leslie. So much so that when she asked a question, I would make something up rather than admit I didn’t know the answer.
I still hate saying it now, as a journalist. Though at least my efforts to avoid the deadly phrase now involve frantic phone calls and pushed deadlines rather than outright fiction.
“I don’t know.” Hard words to admit to.
But really, no other words will do this week.
Not after Boston.
Like a lot of people, I was in the middle of my work day when the Boston Marathon bombs went off. I’d just finished chatting with an organizer about Longmont’s “hackathon” — a fun story, one that made you feel good – when I glanced at my laptop and saw the news.
Over the first few hours it felt, not like 9/11, but like the old Olympic bombing in Atlanta. It was a similar venue, a similar scale. And with no one racing forward to take the credit, it had a similar, desperate search for answers.
What really happened? Who would do this? And why?
In Atlanta, our need for answers became so great that an innocent man got swept up in them. This time, the embarrassment came not from having the wrong name, but from having no name at all, as CNN jumped on rumors of an arrest – rumors that proved to be as solid as a campaign promise.
As I write this, a zillion theories compete for time. I have my own. If they were any more solid than the rest, I’d put them here.
After all, things are supposed to make sense. Aren’t they?
I don’t know.
Turn it around. What do we know?
We know people were hurt. Were killed.
We know that Boston is nearer than we ever imagined it could be.
We know that people need help. Need healing. Need peace.
Most of all, perhaps, we know that people are answering the call.
Whoever set the bombs, they’ve been outnumbered. From the first moments, there were people running toward the explosions, running to do what they could.
A Florida orthopedic surgeon, Dr. John Cowin, had been in the crowd to watch his daughter. He leaped a barrier at the race to tend the wounded.
A group of 20 active-duty soldiers, there to honor lost comrades, had just finished walking the course. They obliterated a fence and started hurrying to remove debris from victims.
A collection of runners who had just finished running a grueling 26 miles-and-change, immediately ran two more. Just far enough to reach the nearest hospital, and give blood.
I’m sure it doesn’t feel like a lot to them. It never does at the time. But that multitude of small moments, candle flame on candle flame, grows brilliant when gathered together. Almost blinding.
These are the ones who deserve to be remembered.
Not the givers of pain. But the fighters of it.
In time, there will be a name. I’m confident of that. In time, some of our questions will have answers. Not all. Never all. But maybe enough.
But that will happen in its time. Not with the speed of a CSI episode, but at the methodical pace that real police work finds. They, too, are lighting candles, though the wicks are slow to kindle.
I’m human. I want to learn more, too. What I don’t know still troubles me.
But what I do know – what I’ve seen, what I’ve heard – has provided more comfort than I could have expected.
They’re still hard words. But ultimately, powerless ones.
No. We don’t know. But we’re learning. And there’s a whole lot of people at our shoulder as we discover it together.
This, we know.