Limbs lying on the sidewalk, unattached. Shrapnel filled bodies, including those of children. Smoke. Buildings with windows and concrete blown out. Screams from the injured and the maimed, fighting to be heard over the sirens.
Scenes from a battlefield, perhaps. Or from a war-torn, third world country.
Not in the United States. Not in downtown Boston. Not at the Boston Marathon.
The scenes of war have once again been played out in the streets of America. Once again our soil is sopped with blood of the innocent. The limbs were torn from the unfortunates who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But is there ever a right place, a right time?
How can there be, when you can be sitting in a movie theater and realize too late that you're not a sitting patron but a sitting duck for a crazy with a machine gun?
How can there be, when little school children are mowed down in their classroom?
How can there be, when a stroll across a college campus suddenly turns into a run for your life?
How can there be, when a drive along the freeway can turn your vehicle into an object of a gunman's target practice?
How can there be a right place, a right time?
So now they blew up the Boston Marathon. The carnage was awful, though it's a miracle that the death toll still sits at three, more than 24 hours after the two explosions rocked the finish line.
This wasn't 9/11-ish, contrary to some. I didn't get that feel. Had there been multiple attacks in multiple cities, then yes, I would have harkened back to September 11, 2001. But to me, the Boston Marathon bombings just felt like an isolated, horrible situation.
But how isolated are these things anymore?
I don't know about you, but it's getting harder and harder to muster up the same outrage, the same disgust, the same shock when episodes of violence occur that take mass lives and wound hundreds. And that in of itself is terrifying.
De-sensitizing is perhaps evil's greatest weapon of them all.
A less outraged society, one that throws its hands up and says, "What the hell?" but does little else to prevent further violence, becomes fertile soil for evil doers.
The more this stuff happens, the lesser the shock value. And the lesser the shock value, the lesser the outrage. And so on.
Not that we aren't those things---shocked, outraged and disgusted. Surely we are. But I submit that we are a tad less so, in the 11-plus years since 9/11.
Slowly but surely ours is a society turning into the defeated---the "Oh well, if it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen" type of people.
You may disagree. Frankly, I hope you do. I hope I'm wrong.
True, the chances are probably 99.99%, at least, that when you go see a flick at your local movie house, you won't be part of a madman's meltdown. Your kids are, for the vastly most part, safe in their schools. The next marathon that they run somewhere in this country likely won't turn into a scene from Saving Private Ryan.
But since the Oklahoma City/Timothy McVeigh bombing in 1995, random acts of mass violence in America are happening just often enough to make us bristle with uneasiness. No, it's not always with a gun, which the NRA folks will happily point out, as if we should be glad that people will always find a way to kill multiple victims in a quick and decisive manner that doesn't involve a firearm.
But it happens just frequently enough to make us feel as if no place is truly safe, though the odds are miniscule that it will ever happen to you. Still, it sometimes jabs at the back of the mind---could tonight at the theater be the night? When I kiss my child goodbye this morning, is that the last I will see of him/her?
You probably don't think like that, as a rule. If you did, you'd drive yourself mad.
But don't tell me that it hasn't crossed your mind.
But what is it doing to us? Is it making us stronger? More defiant against the evil doers? Is it girding us to do something about it?
Or do we just shake our heads, offer our thoughts and prayers to the victims, and then go on to the rest of our day?
Because, after all, that's just the way the world is today...right?
Evil is winning.