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Fear, panic and chaos, but also heroism

"All in all, this has been a tough week. But once again, the character of the United States has been revealed.

— President Obama speaking on Friday

Do you have a disaster preparedness plan for your heart? What do you do to soothe your soul when the bad news just keeps rolling — in seemingly endless waves?

Boston. West, Texas. Boston. Again. And that's just in the United States. Across this spinning orb there have been even more disasters, both natural and man-made. Senseless violence, tragic losses and horrific images are a miserable trifecta. They come to us in an unrelenting bombardment via 24/7 news cycles. And sometimes it's hard to keep perspective.

Being face-planted with disasters in print, television, radio and social media had this not-so-hardened reporter running for cover early in the week. And, while I'm currently listening to the police scanner, I've still got an eye on my mental foxhole.

It's Friday afternoon as I type. One Boston bomber suspect is dead. The other is on the run. Meanwhile, more lives have been lost. I'm not sure what other miseries may befall that beleaguered city before Sunday arrives. But life isn't always easy here in Medford either.

Jordan Criado avoided trial, escaped the death penalty, and will spend his life in prison for murdering his wife and four young children. Monday's sentencing was an emotional ending to a gut-wrenching case that began July 19, 2011, with a 911 call reporting a structure fire. What first responders discovered inside that small Medford home seared their souls, and it ripped at the hearts of surviving family members, friends and our community.

Listening to Criado weep, wail and smite his chest at the sentencing, while continuing to place the blame on his dead wife for killing his children, was disturbing. The grizzled, bent and broken man had also tried to kill himself that day.

"My life is over," said Criado. "It doesn't matter what happens to me."

Marzuq Ziyad, the father of Criado's wife, Tabasha Paige-Criado, represented the family at the sentencing. Ziyad offered his son-in-law the grace of forgiveness. He also urged Criado to accept responsibility for his actions, and to dedicate his life behind bars to helping end domestic violence by helping one prisoner at a time. Ziyad wants the deaths of his beloved family members to be a call to action for all, he said.

"You may be the next victim," Ziyad said. "And I don't want you to feel what I'm feeling."

I couldn't help but be grateful that Criado pleaded out, and the proposed months-long trial didn't happen — for everyone's sake. The heroic efforts of Medford police Lt. Curtis Whipple desperately trying to breathe life into Aurora's soot-covered little 2-year-old body is an image forever burned into my psyche. I can only imagine the emotional toll on these folks had they been forced to relive it all on the witness stand.

Some cases you just don't get over, said Medford police Chief Tim George. You just get on with the job. With life.

As I left the courthouse, my cellphone erupted with Facebook notifications about the Boston Marathon bombings. Grisly images cascaded across the screen. The reporter in me demanded to know it all. Now. But my misery cup was full in that moment. So I turned it off. There would be time enough to face Boston's carnage after I had exhaled Medford's worst murder case into the newspaper.

Unfortunately, my head didn't turn off as easily as my phone. For it's true what they say, some things cannot be unseen. Just ask Justin Rosas.

The Medford public defender ran in the Boston Marathon. During the run, Rosas "experienced joy like few other times in my life," he said. Then all hell broke loose for Rosas about an hour after he crossed the finish line. Fear, panic and chaos ensued. But so did heroism. First responders raced toward unknown dangers. Runners raced to hospitals to donate blood. Strangers helped save lives of those injured in the two blasts that killed three people and injured 183 others.

Rosas has been called to action, too.

This morning, Rosas and others are dedicating their regular Sunday trail run to one of the youngest victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy — 8-year-old Martin Richard. The memorial run around Lost Creek Lake will raise money to buy a new piece of sporting equipment for the boy's school.

"Running is my sanctuary," Rosas said, promising to return to the Boston Marathon after he helps honor the memories of those who will never run again.

My home is my sanctuary. From the first day I found the little riverside cottage more than a dozen years ago, it enfolded me and mine in a loving embrace. It holds my furry, feathered and finned beloveds, as well as my silly little earthly treasures. It is where I sing, dance, paint, cook — or simply sit down by the river and rest my heart.

But I can't always be there. And when I can't, and it seems like the world is spinning into blackness, it helps to strike a match for those who would light candles in the darkness. For there are many. In fact, I believe, they are the majority.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or sspecht@mailtribune.com.