Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Race Clock at the Finish Line Said 4:09

When my friends and I saw the footage of the explosions while we were still in Boston last week after the race we saw the time on the clock at the finish line: 4:09:something.  I read one report online that said it was 4:09:43.  However, I will not necessarily remember how many seconds were on the clock years from now.  I will remember the 4:09 for the rest of my life.  I know that we were trying to sort out why the clock said 4:09 from the start.  The explosions happened at 2:49.  The time since the start of the race had been 4:49.  We were confused as to why it appeared that the clock had been restarted at the start of the third wave.  Perhaps everyone from Wave 1 and Wave 2 had finished.  But I had never seen a race that reset its race clock at the finish line.

I have been trying to make sense of why the time was chosen.  Perhaps I will continue to grapple with the 2:49 a bit more.  But for now, I will focus on the 4:09.  There were some initial reports that the average time for a marathon in 4:10 so this would have been expected to affect the most people.  However, the time was 4:09 from the start of the third wave.  And the average time does not mean the most likely time.  If the attackers were really interested in the most people, they should have sought the modal time rather than the mean time.  In addition, if you look at how races proceed, they should have struck when the leaders came through.

But I don't really want to know the reason for choosing 4:09:something.  What I really want to know is whether the time can help me to find strength in a bible verse. So, I began at the beginning and Genesis 4:9 (leaving out the zero in this case).  According to the USCCB the verse reads:
Then the LORD asked Cain, Where is your brother Abel? He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?"
Just about everyone has heard the story of Cain and Abel.  Everyone knows that this verse comes after Cain killed Abel.  But I am not focusing on the death so much as Cain's basic question--"Am I my brother's keeper?"  There are so many ways to interpret this relative to the events of last Monday.

Let us begin with the basics.  Two brothers involved in committing the attacks.  If the two brothers were really acting as each other's keepers perhaps they would have told each other--not such a good idea.  As if this was not a bad enough example of not acting as each other's keepers, the act that the younger one who has survived and is now being questioned apparently ran over the older one at some point in trying to escape.  Definitely not acting as each other's keepers.

Second, we can see another obvious point.  The two brothers had no sense of being the keeper of any of their brothers or sisters.  They indiscriminately injured and murdered.

But if we ask did the runners, the supporters, and the first responders act like they were each others' keepers, the answer is yes.  Even on the course, runners were helpful to each other.  Runners encouraged each others.  Out on the course runners helped each other after the explosions.  Bystanders helped athletes.  Bystanders helped each other.  Runners even went and donated blood afterwards on a day that most would have normally spent taking a risk.

So the question is one that many of us grapple with many times in life.  What we are left to consider is how people take this or don't take this seriously.  The more people who take this seriously (and we saw some truly courageous people who didn't even pause to think through it) the better the world will be.

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