It was already dark when I walked out of the state Capitol here in Tallahassee, half a continent away from where two explosions had scattered shrapnel and limbs across a Massachusetts street and served as a reminder that nothing we've done over the last 12 years has altered man's inhumanity to man.
And as I walked out, I crossed paths with a police officer, dressed in her uniform, making her way across a courtyard between the historical Capitol and the one that lawmakers use today. And I looked at her a few times, and she looked at me a few times, and I couldn't ask her the question that hung between us: Was this a chance meeting, or was she there for another reason?
I had forgotten, over the last 12 years, what it was like to live and work in a target. Not the Capitol or even the capital city of the fourth-largest state in the country. Because we all live and work in a target every single day, simply by living and working in a nation that will always serve as a magnet for extremists and hatred and vengeance. We are a free country -- and this is part of that. And we have always faced existential threats from without and from within, and no matter where this threat came from, it will fall into a pattern.
After all, the bombs that went off Monday were in the same state as Shays' Rebellion, an uprising that came just as America was beginning to craft its new constitution in 1787. And through a Civil War and the fight against Naziism and the struggle against Communism and the battle with extremism, this country has continued to face challenges that shook the country to its core, challenges that at times seem to undermine, if not our country, than our faith in ourselves.
Even my lifetime has seen more than its fair share of these tragedies: Oklahoma City. 9/11. And now, Boston. And as the targets get further and further from the specific target of the American government -- as they morph from a federal building to a mix of federal buildings and more abstract symbols of American power to a group of people gathered on a state holiday for a longstanding tradition -- they just reemphasize that we are all targets. And they reemphasize that we need each other.
Because we won't ever be completely safe. That's the thing that the politicians on both sides aren't willing to tell us: That we can't ever be completely safe. We can't be safe and free and powerful. I doubt that we can ever be safe and free, even if we were to cede our power to someone else. Freedom is a risk; by agreeing to it, we have all become targets.
But here's the other thing that isn't often said, even though it needs to be said: The extremists have no endgame. Whether they are domestic terrorists bent on changing federal policy or foreign terrorists trying to undermine us or other extremists with motives known only to themselves, they misunderstand the perseverance of America, the spirit that has allowed this country to overcome every threat from every corner for more than 235 years.
This is what we do. We run marathons. And we win them.