Credit: By Ingfbruno via Wikimedia Commons

Harvard Historian Nancy Koehn On Courage, Duty And Resilience After The Marathon Bombings

April 15, 2014

When the bombs exploded in Boston last year the immediate response was one of disbelief. Even Police Commissioner William Evans thought it had to have been a transformer that exploded, not bombs.  However, when it became clear that bombs were deliberately placed at the finish line and that three people had been killed and hundreds injured, there was no denying that the horrors that we often associate with happening elsewhere had happened in Copley Square. Here's how Harvard historian Nancy Koehn characterizes that moment:

Boston found something die-in-the-wool residents, like myself, never hoped to share with New York City, Belfast, Jerusalem, Tokyo, Beirut, London and many other cities:  we were baptized in the shock and awe of the twenty-first century and thus what it really means to live, move and have our being in a turbulent, hyper-connected global village.


The day after the Marathon bombing Koehn held an optional session for her students enrolled in her history of leadership class.  She opened up the class by saying "We could not control what had happened along the Marathon’s finish line a day earlier; but we could each choose how to respond to this.  Would we  default to fear, anger and the (understandable) wish to retaliate?  Or might there be another set of choices—one with perhaps more power and possibility than the former? "

Today on Open Mic Nancy Koehn joins Jim and Margery to examine the Marathon bombings one year out. How have we responded to this act of folly? Have we been resilient? Have we been our bigger selves and not our baser selves?  Have we-- as Koehn saw her students do that day-- picked up the gauntlet that Robert F. Kennedy laid before us when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated?

To hear Koehn's read on how we've fared in the face of tragedy--and to hear her extemporaneous recitation of The Gettysburg Address--do yourself a true favor and have a listen:

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