Unfortunately, I am no stranger to amputated limbs.
In the summer of 1968, in the sleepy little town of Mount Pocono, Pa., my grandparents were the victims of the hallucinations of a mentally ill neighbor who imagined he heard the devil urging him to kill them. He opened fire on them from the third floor of his house while my grandfather was in his backyard picking tomatoes. My grandmother heard the shots and ran to his side. She was shot as well. They both lived, but my grandmother lost a leg, and my grandfather lost both a leg and an arm.
It is impossible to avoid the universal questions that arise around a tragedy such as this. Why would the shooter do this? And more troubling, if you are a God-fearing person, why would God allow this? Why does evil exist? How should we respond?
Forty-five years later, an entire city joined me in asking these same questions following the terror attack at the Boston Marathon.
My grandparents answered in the way they lived out the rest of their lives. Once he was ambulatory, my grandfather went back to his job and continued as a member of the volunteer fire company for another 15 years. They both remained active within their community, as their seven grandchildren grew up in awe of their ability to move on with life without being consumed by bitterness.
Forged in my memory are the countless nights on their front porch, where the neighbors would gather, my grandparents at the heart of it all. They were not alone in their tragedy and they were not alone in their recovery. There was support from everybody around them as they went on living their lives.
Boston answered in much the same way my grandparents did. We didn't flinch, we didn't point fingers, and we instinctively understood that, although acts of terrorism aim to divide us, we're always strongest when we stand together.
Boston's interfaith community helped to model unity by standing shoulder to shoulder and refusing to allow the Muslim community to become scapegoats once the bombers' allegiance to Islam was revealed.
In the aftermath of the bombing, American Muslims, like other Bostonians, were among the first responders, blood donors, fund-raisers, and vocal leaders in interfaith prayers and vigils that were held throughout the city. Muslim leaders and institutions denounced the acts of terror, affirming our shared responsibility to the victims and to each other. These were not new actions for the American Muslim community, but for the first time it felt like these efforts were embraced by the public, an integral part of the fabric of Boston Strong.
Despite past hate-fueled violence aimed at the American Muslim community, there were few reported hate crimes within Boston in the immediate aftermath. That trend was largely repeated throughout the nation. A year later, interfaith communities continue to stand together in solidarity and remembrance - a rejection of violence reflecting the very values this nation stands for.
My grandparents were harmed by the violence of a deranged man, but they were healed by a lifetime of relationships built and nurtured throughout their community.
It's a pattern I see at work in Boston's healing as well. One year ago, our city was traumatized by the violence of two deranged men, but our healing has been driven by our relationships and our faith in one another.
Ultimately we cannot prevent every act of violence, but we can decide how we will respond. I have always been deeply proud of my grandparents for their strength, their courage, and their determination to move forward with their lives. Tragically, we cannot bring back those whose lives were so senselessly taken in last year's attack, but I like to believe we can continue to respond in a way that would earn their pride as well.