Last year, a teenager—but nevertheless an adult—chose to either follow or actively collaborate with his older brother (it does not matter) in creating and then setting off bombs in a crowd of spectators attending the Boston Marathon.
This teenager made a decision that created horrendous carnage and impacted hundreds of people profoundly and permanently—and for some even lethally, including an eight-year-old boy.
All of these people were strangers to him.
During the period leading up to Marathon day, the teenager could have at any time made a different decision. He might have rejected these dark plans. He might have sought guidance from an admired former coach. He might have reported his brother’s activities to the local police.
The implications of choosing to act differently might have been significant. The teenager might have become admired by many people. He might have been honored by his recently adopted country. He might have even emerged as an internationally recognized hero.
What a different path his life—and the lives of countless others—might have taken had he elected any of these alternate choices.
But he did not.
Now this man, no longer a teenager, is locked in a prison cell awaiting trial. A conviction seems assured. Barring a death sentence, he will likely remain incarcerated for the remainder of his potentially very long life.
His confined existence will probably be characterized by monotony, boredom, and relentless internal dialogue about the life he created for himself.
Whether he feels righteous or regretful for the decision he made on that Marathon day, he will undoubtedly ask himself many times, “WHAT IF?”
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
For better or worse.
* * *
Martin Richard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMOdouMGyqg
Jeff Bauman: http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2014/04/jeff_bauman_thank_you_boston
Historian Amanda Foreman writes how “a single act can indeed change the course of history” in The Wall Street Journal.