On days like this, it's hard not to throw up your hands. Maybe we never will be free of the lunatics again, and Monday's horror at the Boston Marathon is just the latest example of the way it will always be. It's hard not to believe they're winning. Why Boston? Obviously we could ask that about any place that has been targeted by terrorists determined to inflict as much pain to as many people as possible in one gigantic act. But why this? “This is not a political event. It's a joyous event. It's just a bunch of innocent people running,” said 43-year-old Larry Smart of Tampa, who was competing in his fourth Boston Marathon. “I just don't comprehend it. I don't know how to put my mind around it.”
No one does. Even if we could peek inside the twisted minds of the maniacs who hatched this, we couldn't comprehend this because there is no way to make sense of the senseless. Maybe the sheer joy this event brings to those who participate is the reason it was targeted. “Boston is something that will change you forever,” Smart said. “Boston is the one beacon that attracts us all. It is amazing. “And it had been a beautiful day. It wasn't like last year, when it was so hot. It was just perfect.” As he spoke with me by phone, that serenity had been shattered. You could hear sirens in the background. Police cars were speeding by. He said there were vehicles from the bomb squad all over the place. Helicopters were flying overhead. I asked him if he could imagine returning to Boston next year. He hesitated a bit, and then said yes. “I can't be dominated by this,” he said. “I'll be back.” Smart was one of seven participants with Progressive Running out of Tampa to make the trip. Back home, Dror Vaknin, who founded Progressive and also coaches at the University of Tampa, was reaching out to each of them to make sure things were OK. Calls like that were going out all over the area. “It is such a close-knit group,” Vaknin said. “Runners are like that all over. There are no major millionaires out there, outside of guys like Usain Bolt maybe. Runners don't do this sport for the accolades. “At the end of the day it's kind of a self-fulfillment thing. Finishing a race like Boston is an achievement. You battle who you are, and if you're happy with yourself at the end of the day then that's good enough.” Susan Harmeling, race director at Tampa's Gasparilla Distance Classic, said there were about 150 runners in Boston from the general Tampa area. She was there for the start of the race but had an early flight home and missed the explosion. “It's just so hard to believe,” she said. Sadly, it really isn't. Anyone who would do something like this can't be reasoned with. They know only hate, and anger, and they need to share that with whoever happens to be in the way. They want blood and death. That “joyous event” – as Smart described Boston – is just something for them to destroy. The worst part is, I don't know how you stop them. But I also know we have to try. That's why we should all hope Smart goes back to Boston next year like he said he will, and all of his friends and fellow competitors join him. On days like this it's hard not to feel defeated because it seems like the terrorists are winning. Going back to Boston is the only way to make sure they don't.