Globe photographer and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Stan Grossfeld was vacationing in Italy in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. His 10-year-old nephew Jared was reportedly about 20 yards from the blast, but was not hurt. Grossfeld wanted to give the boy a message of hope and courage in the wake of the tragedy.
I am so sorry you are having nightmares about what you saw waiting for your Mom at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. You are certainly not alone. I am also sorry we were on vacation in Italy and not around for support. But know that you and the people of Boston were in our prayers in every waking moment.
For the last week the city was a war zone just like Beirut, Iraq, Northern Ireland and other places I have worked as a photojournalist for nearly 40 years. In that time I have seen more than my share of pain and suffering. Here’s what I learned and I hope this helps: Post traumatic stress is like a bucket being filled with water. Drip, drip, drip, it fills until it overflows and then you are in trouble.
So take a break and seek serenity. Believe that this tragedy will make us all stronger and better human beings. Don’t think about what ifs. Don’t feel guilty that an eight-year-old boy ... died, while you lived. Life is not fair and we never know when our time comes. Shrapnel plays no favorites.
Know that we are all in this together. After the explosions the shock waves quickly reverberated across the sea. In the Siena Cathedral a security guard refused to let us pay for candles we lit for the bombing victims. Italians everywhere offered apologies, sometimes just clasping their hands across their hearts or giving us hugs. Remember that love is the universal language.
I know it’s hard to forget the horrors that you have witnessed and still the fear within. But you can heal and move forward. Don’t let the evil in the world paralyze you.
I know that for me getting involved helped my heart heal. I joined the U.S. Fund for UNICEF after seeing the famine in the world and children die of preventable diseases decades ago.
For me the bombings triggered bad memories of which I will spare you the gory details. I know what death smells like.
Last week I felt helpless and guilty that I was thousands of miles away and not helping my amazing colleagues at the newspaper. So I set out with my own therapeutic assignment: Seek beauty and life, not darkness.
Take a break with me and relax and look at these pictures, then if you like them send a dollar to Onefundboston.org. You’ll make a difference and feel better too.
Also I recommend a book written by former U.S. Senator Max Cleland who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam. It’s called “Strong at the Broken Places.”
Oh, one more thing. I know you like music. Listen to some good rock and roll. Loud. Remember what the late, great Warren Zevon said. “Enjoy every sandwich.”
Remember the good guys always win.
Grossfeld won a Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography in 1984 for his photographs of the people of Lebanon. He won a second Pulitzer for feature photography in 1985 for his images of famine in Ethiopia and illegal aliens on the Mexican border.
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at email@example.com.