Five years ago the earth shook and a mushroom cloud rose above the small town of West, Texas on April 17, 2013. A devastating chemical explosion leveled a large section of the town killing fifteen and injuring more than 200. Last year a memorial was constructed near the site so that those who were there might never forget.
Two days before the West explosion terrorist bombs ripped through crowds gathered near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three were killed and 264 were injured. The bombings have not stopped the race. This year, on April 16 more than 30,000 will participate in the 122nd running.
Authorities eventually determined the West tragedy was the result of arson. The Boston bombing was an act of terror. But both cases are remembered by remarkable stories of courage, faith and determination.
On the first anniversary in West, a choir sang Amazing Grace while surrounded with flickering candles on which students wrote, “Rise Up West!” CNN reported, “Residents say their faith has been instrumental in understanding and dealing with last April's tragedy. Montgomery Irwin says the anniversary falling so close to Easter -- with its message of resurrection and renewal -- is especially appropriate for the people of West.”
When the bombs exploded in Boston, many ran for their lives. Carlos Arrendo did the opposite. Not knowing if another bomb might be set to detonate, he tore through the fences to get to the victims and render aid. He rescued 27 year old John Bauman whose lower leg had been blown away. Carolos, 52, was attending the marathon to honor his son who was killed in Iraq.
Perhaps the Apostle John had this kind of human resilience in mind when he wrote, “That was the light which coming into the world, enlightens every man.” (John1:9). Every human being is born with a reflection of that light that is at the source of creation. In some way we are like the clouds that reflect the rising sun, streaked with crimson, purple and gold prior to the sun’s entrance. Often in our moments of greatest heartache and difficulty we reflect the greater glory. But when the sun rises, its brilliance supersedes everything that has gone before.
This may be what Zecharias meant when he said, “The sunrise from on high has visited us!” (Luke 1:78). Or John, when he wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as the only begotten Son of God.” (John 1:14). All of our expressions of courage, faith and determination, mixed as they are with our shortcomings and our sins, are but dim reflections of the perfect light that is found in God.
It seems fitting that before the anniversaries of these two tragic events, the world paused to celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Seeking comfort, consolation and inspiration, we turned our eyes toward that event in human history when God entered into our suffering through His Son and overcame death and the grave.
Our human resilience reflects not on our own glory, but on the glory of Him who made us in His image, Who sent His Son to forgive us our sins and transform us into children of light. He is the source of all comfort and all strength.