The applause was instant. Spontaneous. Sincere. Heartfelt.
Ordinary citizens of a beleaguered city spilled out into streets last night and hailed a procession of an odd mix of vehicles of every shape, size and color heading home -- a sight they welcomed but rather not see again in their neighborhood.
An endless string of police-cars and ambulances. Fire engines and bomb-squad cars. Hummers and BearCats. Buses bursting with SWAT teams. Media-trucks and nosy satellite dishes and antennas.
Multi-colored lights whirled and blinked all night-long as those in the vocation of "serve and protect" dismantled and doffed their gear, stuffed them back in their mobile units, and drove away.
An exhausted city.
An anxious nation.
A concerned continent.
A world relieved.
The time to assess and analyze, dissect and post-mortem, will begin as soon as the sun is up. But for now, at least for a few hours, the questions can sit on the back-burner. There'll be all the time in the world for punditry, the exploring of issues.
But for now, it is time to marvel how a city and a people showed the very best of what human beings are capable: calm and determination in the face of adversity; ability to work together as a truly civilized society; put the collective good over the self; focus on the task at hand; work together on extraordinary, even unprecedented, measures; and as quickly as possible, bring back things to normalcy with the least amount of collateral damage.
For me, the week with its anti-climatic (thank God!) conclusion has been a remarkable example of human progress.
To me, that is -- I should add quickly -- who is but a voyeur in the comfort not only of an arm-chair in his living room in front of a TV screen, but also at a safe distance in another country (Canada).
I muse and note nevertheless of how, amid the ever burgeoning doom and gloom that envelopes the world today, that here is yet another example of human progress.
Not one that adds gigabytes to our cell phone or allows it to make mango milk-shakes.
But one where human beings can actually work together in harmony to address a larger-than-life problem that threatens to turn into or end as a cataclysm.
It proves that if we really, really want to solve a problem, no matter how B-I-G, we can do it.
Just look at what Boston did.
It shut down an entire city, and the people dutifully withdrew indoors. It completely isolated a fugitive to the point that he could not move without being spotted. Smaller than a needle in a haystack, he was found in less than 24 hours. A scenario that even Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford couldn't improve upon!
It proves if we really, really want to solve the problem of terrorism -- or drugs, or the environment, or gun violence, or poverty and hunger, racism, whatever -- we can do it. It needs no intergalactic super-heroes or mountains of gold bullion.
We already have the super-heroes among us. It is us.
We already have all the resources we need. It is us.
It is not the first time I have got a glimpse of this truly brave new world we have become -- at least in revealing our own potential.
A decade or so ago, just as I got off the highway and drove into the downtown core of Toronto in the evening rush-hour, heading for a dinner engagement, the world suddenly and unexpectedly went dark.
It was an all-out power outage, it was soon revealed, affecting a grid that spanned across provincial and national borders.
It threatened a total collapse of infra-structure. Nothing, it appeared, was working. No elevators. No traffic lights. No gas-pumps. Nothing that ran on electricity or depended on computers. Nothing. Batteries that gave an independent life to things began to peter out within hours, and were dead by the next morning.
Sitting in the heart of downtown, I was stranded not only because the roads were clogged in every direction, but my gas-tank was empty: I had planned to fill-up on my home after dinner. Credit cards -- all that I had of "value" in my wallet -- were of no use while the power was out. So, I couldn't buy even a pop or a sandwich anywhere.
I sat on a sidewalk at one of the busiest cross-roads in the country and saw how, within minutes, chaos was translated into order -- not by the police or a paramilitary force, but by ordinary civilians. Natural leaders emerged from their stranded cars, took over traffic control on their own volition, and right before our very eyes, traffic began to move again.
Within two hours, downtown was relatively empty. People had gone home, peacefully and in peace. No shouting, no yelling. No looting. No threats, No crime. No mayhem.
To me, who saw the worst of human nature everyday, being a litigation attorney, it was nothing short of a miracle.
It is not an isolated example.
A couple of years ago, when the deadly tsunami hit Japan, it's people showed the world how one can face and overcome the greatest of tragedies with aplomb and finesse. Adversity needn't turn us into boors. Instead, it can, if we allow it, bring out the best in us.
As it did in Boston during the last few hours and days.
There will be lots of time to moan and whine over our shortcomings, once Monday comes along and we have to stare the facts in the face. How did two American kids enjoying the best life can offer, go so wrong? Can we shift the blame to distant, foreign causes? Could the authorities have handled it any better? Can we take any steps to reduce the risk of further occurrences? Did the media behave any better this time around? (John King/CNN: A "dark-skinned" suspect!?)
But nothing will, nothing should, take away from the marvel that the people of Boston have been through this time of trial and tribulation.
They deserve our congratulations!