What's normally a day of great accomplishment and pride turned into one of tragedy and bloodshed Monday at the Boston Marathon.
While investigators and medical personnel worked into the night the rest of the country was left wondering how to get through another national nightmare.
All most of the spectators in Boston and around the country could do was watch, stunned.
"Your natural capacity as a human being is to feel other people's pain," explains pediatrician Dr. Gwenn O'Keeffe.
Psychologists say the explosions in Boston can trigger a sort of nationwide post traumatic stress disorder and bring up painful memories of other major tragedies like 9/11 or the bombing at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park in 1996.
"It almost feels like we cannot relax, we cannot get comfortable and contented about violence it's so prevalent and that's what is so I think discomforting to most people," says Dr. Priscilla Dass-Brailsford.
Perhaps most heartbreaking about this story is that a child is among the dead, and helping other children cope with the news depends on their age.
Many experts recommend limiting kids' media exposure and reassure them that while sad, these events are rare.
"Kids of all ages take their cues from us as parents as so the more emotional we are about it, the more worried or concerned the kids will likely be," explains the Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Kate Eshleman.
Social media sites are rife with signs the nation is trying to heal, candles lit, roses shared, millions of online tributes and images of love for Boston.
"When people don't know what else do do, they tend to sort of put their heart stamp on social media, and I think it's a great way for the people who are struggling to go there and realize that they're not alone," Dr. O'Keeffe says.
Perhaps the most effective way to cope is to remember there's something about the nation's worst moments that can bring out the best in its people.
Child psychologists suggest parents watch for changes in mood or behavior among kids who may be particularly affected by tragedies. In those cases, they say it's best to consult a doctor.