Run Towards

I take the emergency exit row on a plane whenever I can get it. Who doesn’t, right? When the attendants come around and ask if you are willing and able to assist in the event of an emergency, I nod, but think to myself “My job ends once that door’s open then I’m outta here.” I’d like to think I would stick around and help carry out the elderly or infirm, but there is a deep and guilty part of me that thinks I wouldn’t. I would run away.

Running away is an easy way to deal with life. I run when I can because when the exit door’s open, it’s much easier than sticking around; trying to help, trying to change, trying to make things better. Easiest to leave and start over, when there’s a choice. And all I have to say to that is, I am not a good example of humanity and I know this.

When the horrific events of Boston unfolded today, I watched in dismay as did the rest of the world. Hours of “Who? Why?” over and over, 15 second Vine videos of the blast, screaming people running away. I turned it off after a bit. I, too, ran away. What were they going to say that made sense? Would someone step forward and say, “I did this, and this is why,” and that would somehow explain it? It was a horrific evil act regardless of the perpetrator’s identity or reasoning, and so I took a break from the nonstop onslaught of smoky images.

But I turned it back on later, to see if there was any new news. I saw that an eight year old died, a child the same age as my own, one who was likely there cheering on a loved one on a happy Patriot’s Day. And I held my head and turned away, but something in the images starting to come forward changed my mind, despite the despair, despite the urge to run from reality.


In the seconds after the blast, while confused runners and spectators were fleeing, I saw the first responders sprinting towards the victims. Knowing a second explosion had just hit and unsure if more explosions were coming, still, they ran towards those who needed them. I know a lot of these ‘Massholes’, as they call themselves. I grew up as one. I still drive like one. Massholes run towards.

I saw marathoners, who had planned this event for months and months, robbed in a moment of this happy journey, leave the course and continue running, towards the hospital to donate blood. Elite athletes are often accused of being selfish to the point of narcissism in their quest for glory. They, too, ran towards.

I saw other marathoners, paused on the roadside with their shirts off, tearing them into pieces to apply tourniquets to the victims. The one time I ran a marathon I couldn’t even remember my name by mile 23 and here they were, at the end, applying first aid knee to knee with spectators. All labels gone, just humans in the thick of things, compelled to run towards.

You may think you have your life on track and then without warning, reason, or explanation, it can derail in a second’s time, and until it happens, you have no idea of what kind of person you will be. And while there will always be crazy people and awful psychopaths and run of the mill jerks, I’m reminded of the fact that the reason we consider them sociopaths and villains is because most of us, yes, the vast majority of us, even those we don’t like or agree with most of the time, are good and want to support our fellow man, not drown him.

Not one of those people stopped to ask a victim, Romney or Obama?

Do you feed raw food or kibble?

Did you rescue your dog or buy a purebred?

Perspective is a precious gift we can find in the most wretched of circumstances. And on this day, I hope that if I ever find myself faced with a choice, I choose to run towards my fellow man.

Filed: Be The Change, Blog, Heroes Tagged:
  • Sue W.

    Beautifully said. In awe of the people at the site. No words for this tragedy. Your words were enough.

  • Cathey

    Beautiful. As usual, Dr. V, you said what I can’t find the words for. I hugged my dog & prayed for all of us.

  • SD

    Well said! Last night I asked my husband which way he would run? He’s a volunteer fireman and first responder so naturally and without hesitation he said “towards the victims”. I too would run towards them. I’m a member of the HSUS NDART (National Disaster Animal Response Team) and a World Vets member. I want to help (both human and animals) because if I was a victim I would hope someone would be willing to help me.

  • carolinegolon

    Great post, Dr. V. xo

  • Sherry in MT

    Beautifully written my dear and it brought tears to my eyes! My Dad was one of those that would be running toward and I have that same instinct. You do to….you wouldn’t pass them or an injured animal along the way.

  • Lisa W

    Thank you. I had the same thoughts yesterday as I saw police, EMS, race employees and participants, military members, and just plain people running to help. Heartlifting images in the midst of the heartbreaking ones.

  • Amy Sunnergren

    I’m a civil rights attorney, and I know that after my first thought (Wha’ the f?!) I would look around to see what I could see. I am neither medically competent nor emergency trained. If I thought that I would be in the way, I would leave. If I though I could help (directing people, handing stuff to those who know what they are doing, helping move debris to free the trapped) I would stay and do so. Setting another bomb to go off to injure those who arrive to help is always a possibility (although in this case it was down the road a bit and not in the immediate vicinity) but being injured by a bomb is the price of a free society. While I wish deeply that it had not happened, I know this is always a possibility in a society that allows freedom. I would rather that I had paid that price than those that did, by a long shot.

  • Susi

    Nicely said, Jessica.

  • I hate how divided our country and neighborhoods feel, but am delighted that we are all still one. Your blog said it perfectly.

  • melF

    What a terrific post and a great reminder. Thank you. Sometimes I forget that what matters is not any of those either this or that questions. It’s that we make a difference, even in a small way.