Moment after nail-biting moment, the events shoved us through a week that felt like an unremitting series of tragedies: Deadly bombs. Poison letters. A town shattered by a colossal explosion. A violent manhunt that paralyzed a major city, emptying streets of people and filling them with heavily armed police and piercing sirens.
Amid the chaos came an emotional Senate gun control vote that inflamed American divisions and evoked memories of the Newtown massacre. And through it all, torrential rain pushed the Mississippi River toward flood levels.
"All in all it's been a tough week," President Barack Obama said Friday night. "But we've seen the character of our country once more."
America was rocked this week, in rare and frightening ways. We are only beginning to make sense of a series of events that moved so fast, so furiously as to almost defy attempts to figure them out. But beneath the pain, as the weekend arrived, horror was counteracted by hope.
"We inhabit a mysterious world," Rev. Roberto Miranda said at a prayer service for the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people, inflicted life-changing injuries on scores more and shook the sense of security that has slowly returned to America since 9/11.
"The dilemma of evil is that even as it carries out its dark, sinister work," Miranda said, "it always ends up strengthening good."
That evil arrived Monday when twin bombs exploded near the finish line of the marathon. Not since 9/11 had terror struck so close to home. Although the scale of the Boston attack was far smaller than the destruction of the World Trade Center, a dozen years' worth of modern media evolution made it reverberate in inescapable ways.
In 2001, we could walk away from our televisions. In 2013, bad news follows us everywhere. It's on our computers at work and home, on our phones when we call our loved ones, on social media when we talk to our friends.