I was finishing a late lunch in Ashkelon in late April when I saw a look of concern on the face of my friend. When you’re in that part of Israel, looks like that often dive. But, he wasn’t asking me to dive on the floor to shield myself from a bomb. His stunned face was riveted on the television.
I turned and saw what had turned his normally cheerful face into one of shock. Regular programing on the station had been interrupted to bring the news of a bomb blast at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon.
I got up and walked to the television set with an expression so livid it surprised these folks who have never seen me angry in the last three years I’ve been coming here for filming. A couple of guys came and stood behind me, as if to comfort this American far away from home.
A stranger sided up to me and said; “now you understand how we feel?” I didn’t need to know how he felt. I know. Before lunch, the bomb alert had gone off and I found out later that a rocket had landed a few miles from where I was staying.
I wasn’t just mad at the act of terrorism itself. That scared the hell out of me because I have friends in Boston and everyone who goes to the marathon try to get as close to the finish line as possible because that’s where the fun was.
I was mad that I had been denied of something special, the final race of Dick and Rick Hoyt. A journey that started thirty-one years ago was finally coming to an end. It was why I opted for lunch instead of an early dinner. I wanted to cheer them on, on the telly.
If you don’t know the Hoyts then you’ve missed one of the most remarkable tales in the history of God’s earth. When Rick was born in 1962, the umbilical chord was wrapped around his neck causing a blockage of oxygen and prevented his brain from communicating with his muscles. In most places that is a death sentence. Doctors asked the Hoyts to institutionalize their son, they refused believing this gift of God is special and everyone would soon see. At 11, he was fitted with a computer that helps him communicate. Rick graduated at age 31 with a degree from Boston University.
That is not even the story. In 1977, Rick read an article on racing and was so inspired he told his father he wanted to run a race too. Now, Rick is wheelchair bound. His father is 37 and not active. But, what’s a good father to do. He said yes. After the race, Rick told his father he didn’t feel handicapped when he’s running.
Hurray! Dick finally found something fun he can do with his little boy. He would not let his lack of athleticism stop him. He started a Spartan training regimen to be fit to push a wheelchair with a teenager for ten or twenty-five miles. He would put bags of cement in the wheelchair and race around when his son was indisposed.
They became an inspiring site on the long distance race circle. In April, they’d done 1,077 endurance races, including 70 marathons and six Ironman triathlons. If this had happened six hundred years ago, Dick would be a saint. But, today he’s a hero.
I was mad that the terrorists denied them a glorious opportunity to end their careers in their hometown. Rick is 51 now and his father is 73. You know the story ended without the flourish it deserves. Then on Wednesday, I finally saw these two for the first time outside a race at the ESPYs, ESPN’s sports award.
The wife has never seen or heard of them and her handkerchief was damp by the time the Hoyts were done. You think you’re a great parent. Watch Dick and you know you can do more – for your kids and the world. The best part of the night for was when the Hoyts said they won’t let the terrorists stop them. They will run one more time at next year’s Boston marathon. I couldn’t stop applauding.
I was still high on the Hoyt encounter when I got home and logged on to the Internet. I shouldn’t have because the news from Nigeria has a way of wiping the smile off your face. This time, it actually slapped you numb. Nigerian Senators had finally approved the rape of girls.
Or, what do you call a law that stipulates kids can marry way before they are 18? 18 is the age when kids step into adulthood. It’s why the law says they can’t drink, drive or make decisions for themselves before they are 18. Now, thanks to Nigerian Senators, a few of whom are veterans of exploiting under-aged girls, you can cart under-aged girls home before they are 18 and claim them as your wives.
Where is the humanity!
You think of the Hoyts and you’re inspired. You think of the Nigerian Senate this week and you get depressed. Hopefully, we’re all gonna wake up tomorrow and realize this is some form of late April fool’s joke. It’s gotta be a joke, right? Even in Nigeria!
Ose Oyamendan, a film maker in California, writes a weekly column for Premium Times and can be reached on his twitter handle @iam_ose
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