A week ago Monday, at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon, someone set off homemade bombs, killing three people and wounding nearly 200 others. In the midst of celebration and a unique sense of community, the terrorists were able to derail Patriots Day, Boston’s annual signature holiday.

Runners and spectators ran for cover, smiling faces and jubilant cheers were replaced with looks of horror, shock, and fear. First responders and many spectators flocked to assist the victims. Law enforcement teams were mobilized, and the FBI sprang into action, as they are poised to do when there is an incident of this sort.

Like many others, I was glued to the television as the event unfolded. I watched as victims were transported to local hospitals and spectators shared their stories and searched for answers.

The question that kept racing through my head was not, ‘Who did it?’ I didn’t even ask how or why. The question I kept asking was, ‘Is this America, the home of the brave and the free?’

This event was so horrific that it was all my English composition students’ could talk about. I asked them, “If you knew who had bombed the marathon, would you tell?” Surprisingly, some were emphatic that they would tell, even if it were a close relative, whereas others admitted that their loyalty to their family would compel them to remain silent.

I spoke with a few Austin residents, and each one had a different theory as to who or what group might be responsible for the Boston bombing. Most assumed it was the act of an international terrorist group; others thought it was an amateur in quest of fame. I believed it was someone with a personal vendetta; of course, we now know it was two brothers with possible accomplices, yet their motive is still unknown.

The incident reminded me of other bombings like Sept. 11, 2011 (9/11) when terrorists blew up the World Trade Center in America’s “Big Apple.” I thought about the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s federal building, and the 1996 bombing of Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park during the summer Olympics. The Atlanta bombing was the act of a lone perpetrator in protest of America’s acceptance of legalized abortion.

These events took American lives, left our spirits tormented, and our sense of safety shattered. It was years before I visited New York again, and when I did, I was haunted by the memories of the people I knew who perished in the twin towers. I have not been back to Atlanta yet, and have no desire to travel to Oklahoma City.

I talked with others throughout the city, many of whom pledged to never again go certain places or do certain things.

My cousin, Diane Smith, an avid marathon runner, said she is not going to run in the Chicago Marathon. “It’s not safe, and the world is full of crazy people,” Smith said.

To anyone who is planning to live their life in a bubble or 3-mile radius, I say, “Don’t let the terrorists win!” Now is not the time to retreat.

This is America, the home of the brave and the free. As Americans, we have to stand up to terrorists and refuse to give up our bravery and our freedom.

A terrorist attack is like an extreme act of bullying. The goal of a terrorist is to rob innocent people of their freedom to pursue their lives and to live life to the fullest. When you are bullied, the victory is in getting up.

You may think avoiding crowds and public events is the answer. You may think your community or your home is safe, but the truth is any neighborhood, any city, can be the target of a terrorist attack. I believe that when it’s your time to go, it’s your time; therefore, you should live each moment to the fullest, so if it is your last moment, you lived it on your terms.