Putting Bad News in Perspective by Sharon O’Donnell

The tragic events in Boston have alarmed and touched everyone, no doubt. I think it particularly touched my family because Boston is sort of like our adopted city. As avid Red Sox fans, we’ve gone there for vacation many times, usually combining some time in the city with time in a southern Maine beach town, an hour or so away where New England’s Red Sox fans were still everywhere. We’ve taken the bus tour of Boston, the walking tour of Boston, we’ve climbed the hill to Bunker Hill, we’ve gazed at the Old North Church that made Paul Revere famous, we’ve been aboard the replica of the Boston Tea Party ship. We’ve walked the streets of Boston many time, reveling in staying each time in the old Buckminster Hotel just down from Fenway Park.

And yes, we’ve sat in Fenway before and seen home runs go over the Green Monster, sung along to Sweet Caroline, and cheered for Ortiz and company. The ’04 team not only gave our family the most thrilling and nerve-wracking sports experience we’ve ever experienced, it also provided a wonderful analogy for life itself, a lesson in not giving up, in believing against all odds. We named our beloved long-haired dachshund Fenway — who ironically or maybe by destiny was born on the night the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 1984, breaking an 86 year championship drought, which many thought to be a ‘curse.’

Both sides of my husband’s family is from Lowell, MA, a city north and a bit west of Boston — a proud manufacturing town. It’s where his roots are. We’ve been there several times, including taking tours of the old refurbished mill area in the beautiful renovated downtown. We visited the cemetery where numerous relatives are buried.

The publisher of my first (and only, so far) book is Houghton Mifflin in a gorgeous high-rise office building in downtown Boston. Before my book’s publication, I went there to meet and visit with my publisher, and I remember well looking at the Boston skyline from the building and getting a bit emotional. Afterwards, I visited the Yawkey Way souvenir shop by Fenway Park and just happening to run into Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the team’s new and most popular players who had just helped the team win the 2007 World Series. He was nice enough to sign autographs in the team program booklet for all 3 of my sons, and when he asked me their names, I told him not to worry about personalizing the autographs because I felt I was already intruding on him enough; however, he said, “But it would mean so much more to them.” So he personalized each autograph to each boy — making a Christmas gift from me one the boys would never forget.

So when the bombing and subsequent events hit Boston, we all thought of the memories we have there. These memories made it all so much more real to us. We all followed the tragic events during the past week. I’m not a fan of 24/7 news on TV because I think it makes people dwell on bad things too much; however, my sons and I still watched, eyes glued to the TV, mesmerized by the riveting real life drama playing out on the screen. Despite all the bad things in this news story, there were also good things that showed the compassion and inspiration of humanity. That was what we needed to focus on. And still do.

We can’t get too overwhelmed by the sadness and evil of it all, but instead must understand that bad news stories have happened throughout history — and still here we are. I remind myself that my mother had doubts about the world during World War 2, after the assassination of President Kennedy, during Vietnam –but she and everyone else got through it. I remember how it felt after 9/11 and how devastated everyone was, how I looked at my then 10, 7, and 1 year old sons and wondered what the future held for them and our country. That was 11 years ago, and though the memory is still fresh and painful, it didn’t stop our nation from moving on. Our hearts go out to the families of those killed and to those injured and their families. It is entirely senseless and mind-boggling. Yet, all this bad news has to be put into perspective so that we can carry on and move forward.

I can’t wait to go back to Boston.