The Get Back Up Generation


My generation has been called lots of things — lazy, apathetic, self-interested — but I have other adjectives to replace them with: dedicated, intelligent, generous, and willing to sacrifice for others.  

Monday's tragedy at the Boston Marathon brought this into clear focus for me. While the bombings surely touched everyone — people of ages, backgrounds, and creeds — and was horrific by any description, I couldn't help but think of all the young people who stood up to help where they could, and the many others who paid an extraordinary price at such a young age.  

I was proud to call Boston home for the past six years. It's the place where I attained two higher degrees; the city where I came to know many extraordinary young leaders and innovators; and the place where I met my future husband, in a state and city that fully accepted me in spite the gender of the person I love.

Indeed, more than three-quarters of Boston residents are between the ages of 20-34, making it one of the youngest cities in the nation. About two-fifths of young people in Boston have college degrees, one of the highest education rates nationwide. Add to that the fact that Boston has been ranked the most innovative and talented region in the world, with a relatively strong economy and health outcomes, and you have a great place for young people to live and thrive.

Which is why the events of April 15th are even more tragic. Many of those crossing the finish line at the time of the bombings were running for charity and had raised thousands of dollars to do so, including a young blind runner who raised money to fight cancer. And 400 Massachusetts National Guardsmen, including many young people, were on hand to assist runners and could be seen running towards grievously injured victims after the explosions.

To me, this ethic of giving back is nothing new. Since September 11, 2001, millennials have responded with extraordinary selflessness and service to country. Approximately 2 million troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, with thousands killed and tens of thousands injured. Despite the challenges of the recession, many millennials are civically engaged and well-informed about civics. And at least three-quarters of millennials have made financial donations to non-profit organizations, and 70% have raised charitable contributions — just like many of the runners on April 15.

As we're now learning, many of those injured on Monday were among Boston's best and brightest young people. Students from Boston University, Tufts University, Emerson College, Northeastern University, Berklee College of Music, and Boston College were all victims, including a Boston University graduate student who was killed.  

And then there was Krystle Campbell, a Massachusetts native just 29 years old when she was killed on Monday. Krystle was at the marathon to watch with her best friend, Karen, when the first bomb exploded, killing her instantly. While working long hours, Krystle had been living with her grandmother to help her through an illness for years. Of Krystle, her grandmother Lillian said, "She was always right there when you needed her. All you had to do was call Krystle, and she was there."

In the coming days and months, a lot will be said about this tragedy and tragedies yet to come. But when I think of all the young people affected by this event and the many acts of violence that plague our nation on a daily basis, I will think of Krystle and the many others like her. In the words of Kahlil Gibran on an inscription just steps away from this week's attacks: "It was in my heart to help a little, because I was helped much."