I have no anger in my heart today, and it feels so good. How do you feel?
When the Boston Marathon bombs went off, I was on a plane bound from Boston to Texas, and from there to California. I took off just an hour before the blasts, and I learned about the bombings from the passenger sitting beside me, who had received a terse email about them. I logged onto the in-flight Wi-Fi to learn more. The details of the horror spilled through that tenuous network connection as I flew farther and farther away from my home and my feelings evolved from initial disbelief to anger that flowered into hatred.
By the time my plane landed, I wanted to turn around and go home. But I had business to attend to on the West Coast. As I finally started my journey home to Boston on Thursday, the FBI released grainy photos of the suspects, whom we now know as Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I saw those photos, and my hatred was in full bloom. I wanted revenge. These two men had walked among the people of my city with bombs on their backs. How could they do such a thing?
When I got home at midnight on Thursday, I didn’t want to go to bed. I wanted to watch the news. I wanted to see these evil men caught and punished. Little did I know that they would engage in a gun battle with police just miles from my home. Over the next 24 hours as we were all trapped in our homes, my hatred burned itself out.
When Dzhokhar finally surrendered himself, all I saw was a skinny, 19-year-old boy. Yes, he is a murderer. Yes, he killed precious people with his brother and maimed so many more. But I couldn’t summon up that hatred I had felt when I first saw his photograph. All I felt was relief.
You could see that relief on the faces of the thousands of people who cheered the weary police as they withdrew from Watertown. You could see it on the faces on everyone. I went to bed feeling relief and a sense of peace. I woke up today feeling the same way. No anger. No hatred. I think those feelings may be gone.
I’m not saying that we should absolve the Tsarnaev brothers of their alleged crimes. Dzhokhar should be prosecuted. He should spend the rest of his life in prison. He should live out his year racked by guilt for the horror he committed, regardless of whether he was a puppet of his older brother or a full and equal participant in the act of terror. What I’m asking myself and you isn’t about how Dzhokhar should be treated. I’m asking whether we should let the relief we all feel turn into something more beautiful. Can we be at peace after such horror? Can we let this relief heal us?
There are dozens of people who have been maimed physically and emotionally by these events. Families have lost loved ones. People have lost their limbs. They have suffered. I have love in my heart for them and I hope they heal. I hope we all do.
But I also know that September 11 left an indelible wound on our country. We were all so very angry and sad for such a very long time. We went to war. We hunted down and killed the people who murdered our people. But I never felt good about the revenge we took. Much of it was necessary. Much of it was right, but our vengeance and our justice did not bring me peace.
When the police took Dzhokhar alive last night, I felt differently. There was no revenge. There was no more bloodshed. And it felt right. I don’t have hatred in my heart anymore, and it feels right.