In the history of the English language, there might not be three finer words paired together than those spoken late Friday night.
“I love you” would be in contention, if we were to make a competition out of it.
“God bless you,” perhaps.
But in the aftermath of the bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon that killed three and injured more than 180, in the aftermath of the latest terrorist attack that left our nation in mourning, mumbling “here we go again” under its collective breath, and hoping beyond hope for a satisfactory conclusion, these three words provided the perfect, cathartic release from the agony of the previous five days:
“We got him.”
Spoken by dozens of law enforcement officers after a dangerous, deadly, even surreal manhunt that shut down a metropolitan area of more than 7 million people.
Tweeted out by Boston Mayor Tom Menino.
Retweeted by countless others.
“We got him.”
Simple but direct, and worthy of the celebration that followed.
Thanks to the brave and tireless efforts of local, state of Massachusetts and federal law enforcement officers, and the help of a few key members of the public, the second of two suspects in Monday’s bombings was captured, seriously injured but alive, after one final exchange of gunfire.
The first suspect, older brother of the second, died in custody after an overnight rampage that also led to the death of one police officer and the critical injury of another.
As news cycles go, this past week was, in large part, a bummer.
There were the bombings at the Boston Marathon, of course. But that was just the beginning of the week.
In West, Texas, on Wednesday, at least 14 people were killed and about 200 others injured in a terrifying fertilizer plant explosion. A passer-by’s video of the explosion went viral online. Viewers could only imagine the horror inside the plant.
Less violent but having a dramatic impact locally, nonstop rainstorms flooded much of McHenry County and other parts of Chicago and the suburbs, shutting down some towns, severely damaging hundreds of homes, and generally wreaking havoc on many local people’s lives.
Focusing on the dire elements of these events tells only one side of the story, though.
In each of them are uplifting stories of heroism about caring people selflessly helping others, sometimes at their own peril.
With two bombs exploding within seconds in Boston, no one in the moment could possibly know whether more explosions were coming or not. Yet countless people ignored the potential danger and rushed to the aid of those injured by the blasts.
The national and Boston media told dozens of stories of bystanders, in the middle of massive chaos, rushing to the aid of the injured, using their own clothes to create tourniquets, carrying victims to medics and helping in any way they could.
The same can be said in Texas. Among the dead are some of the first emergency responders who arrived at the scene to help the plant’s workers escape from the initial fire. Passers-by helped evacuate a nearby retirement home whose windows, doors and ceiling were blown out, all with the potential of another explosion coming at any time.
In McHenry County, hundreds of volunteers joined county, municipal and township employees to fill sandbags and notify residents that the sandbags would be available to them. A small sacrifice given the other events of the week, perhaps, but still noteworthy.
Suffolk County, Mass., District Attorney Dan Conley summed things up best.
“Moments like these, terrible as they are, don’t show our weakness,” he said. “They show our strength.”
As the world watched, the law enforcement community capped that sentiment off with its heroic victory late Friday night.
We mourn the victims of the marathon bombings and Texas explosion, and we pray with and for surviving family members and friends.
But we also celebrate last week’s many heroes.
Congratulations and thank you to them for making us feel a little bit better about ourselves during tough times.
• • •
Proof through the night: If you haven’t seen and heard the crowd at the Boston Bruins hockey game take over the singing of the national anthem on Wednesday night before the first sporting event in the city after the marathon bombings, do yourself a favor – find it online, watch and, most importantly, listen.
Regular Bruins anthem singer Rene Rancourt began the anthem as usual, but he then put down his microphone and let the crowd finish for him.
It’s quite moving, and well worth repeat listens.
• • •
Homeless clarification: Rich Ring, a site manager at one of the PADS overnight church shelters in McHenry County, contacted me about what he said was misleading information in last week’s column.
In the column, I was promoting the upcoming SleepOut for Shelter fundraiser for PADS and its parent organization, Pioneer Center for Human Services, of which I am a member of the board of directors. Most of the funding for Pioneer/PADS’ programming comes through private donations and fundraisers such as SleepOut for Shelter.
I wrote: “It costs about $670,000 to fund the homeless programs that Pioneer/PADS provides each year, including the overnight shelters.”
But that $670,000 does not include the costs incurred by the churches that host the rotating shelters from October through April.
“At a national average of $35 a night to house a person in an emergency homeless shelter, the churches this year have provided, I calculate, $350,000 of service without any monies from Pioneer,” Ring wrote me.
In addition to providing space and countless volunteer hours, the churches also incur their own significant costs.
As a Pioneer Center board member, I want to thank the McHenry County churches and their staffs and congregants for so generously giving back to the community. This year’s shelter hosts are:
• Bethany Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake;
• Immanuel Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake;
• Sts. Peter & Paul Parish in Cary;
• Christ the King Catholic Church in Wonder Lake;
• Redeemer Lutheran Church in Woodstock;
• St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richmond;
• St. Joseph Church in Harvard;
• Christian Fellowship Church in Crystal Lake; and
• Cary United Methodist in Cary.
Without these church partners, McHenry County’s growing homeless population would be on its own during northern Illinois’ cold, harsh winters.
Look for a guest column from Ring on one of this week’s Opinion pages on the topic of homelessness in McHenry County.
• Dan McCaleb of Crystal Lake is group editor of Shaw Media’s suburban publications, which include the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Dan_McCaleb.