I bought a running shirt near the finish line of the Boston Marathon a little over a week ago.

The words on the front mean nothing to most people but everything to those who have successfully run Boston.

“Right on Hereford St; left on Boylston; 26.2”

I enjoyed the thrill of doing exactly that before packed crowds of well-wishers for 17 years as a mid-pack finisher at Boston. The right turn means you are almost done after 26 miles of pounding the pavement. Turn left and you can see the finish line timing clock high above the street. The din of the crowd is loud and welcoming. Families line the sidewalks ten or 12 deep looking for their loved ones who are hobbling, a few even still running, in an exhausted, exhilarated fashion to reach the blue and yellow unicorn painted on Boylston.

Now the joy of running the world’s most famous marathon has been shattered by a cruel, tragic, senseless act of violence against the most innocent of people.

One of those killed, according to the Boston Globe, was an eight-year-old boy who had just hugged his father as he crossed the finish line.

How can any of us understand this? There is simply no way.

Killing the helpless to make some kind of statement or to scare and humble our nation into a panicked response?

We are better than that. We come together in tragedy. Witness the heroes who immediately responded to the bomb blast.

Dozens of race volunteers, fellow spectators, police and first responders raced not away from the blasts, but directly into the smoke to try and help those injured and bleeding.

They saved lives and made a much louder statement about Americans and the kindness of humans than the evil represented by whoever built and set off the blast.

We do not run from danger. We run to help each other.

No amount of security can ever totally protect us from what happened in downtown Boston on Patriots Day.

But we can, as runners, as family members, as citizens of the U.S. and the world, unite to reject this kind of violence and those who would advocate its use no matter what the reason or cause.

The Boston Marathon will live on into its 118th running next April. You can count on it.

The people of Boston, those who love to run, those who have made our country a beacon of hope for a better, more peaceful life will see to it.

The Patriots Day holiday is held in Boston each year in honor of those who risked all to gain our independence.

The marathon was started to celebrate freedom and athletic achievement that comes only from hard work, sacrifice and a will to finish the job. Our hearts ache for those who were injured and killed, and for their families.

But no amount of madness will stop our spirit from once again turning right on Hereford and left on Boylston.

— Tom Brown is former publisher of the East Oregonian and a 17-time finisher of the Boston Marathon.

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