Another memorial service.
Another moment of silence to be observed.
At approximately 2:50 PM, on Monday, April 15, two explosions ripped through the finish line area of the Boston Marathon, turning a joyful Patriots’ Day tradition into a crime scene.
Three were killed: Martin Richard, 8, from Dorchester; 29-year old Krystle Campbell of Medford; and Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi, 23.
More than 260 people were injured.
Early Friday evening, police arrested 19-year old Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev in connection with the bombings, after a daylong manhunt had completely shut down the city of Boston and several suburbs, leaving one police officer dead.
Authorities spent Tuesday and Wednesday of last week combing through the debris field for bomb fragments and other evidence, in an effort to piece together what occurred.
The bombs were homemade, constructed using pressure cookers, and filled with metal ball bearings, BBs and nails – a recipe easily found in “The Anarchist Cookbook,” or in Al-Qaeda’s internet manuals for terrorist attacks.
Since the bombs were placed near the ground for detonation, many of the injuries involved traumatic amputations below the waist.
Medics on-scene for the race were prepared to handle stress fractures and ankle sprains, instead they were suddenly applying tourniquets to lost limbs and staring wide-eyed at legs with nails sticking out of them.
By late Wednesday police had spliced together all the available video footage, and came up with two suspects – one in a white hat and one in a black hat.
With their faces everywhere, the suspects tried to make a run for it Thursday, but ended up in an overnight shootout with police that left Dzhokhar’s 26-year old brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev dead.
Several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were detonated during the shootout, and later additional IEDs were discovered in Watertown and in the brothers’ home in Cambridge.
One MIT police officer was killed and another transit police officer was seriously wounded during the violent spree. The younger brother escaped after backing over his dying brother with the vehicle they had carjacked earlier Thursday evening after robbing a convenience store, touching off one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history.
Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick issued a “shelter in place” order, locking down the city of Boston and many surrounding areas from dawn till dusk last Friday.
It was after this order was lifted, around 7:00 PM, when a Watertown resident stepped outside to notice the tarp on his boat was unattached. The homeowner saw blood on the boat, then lifted the tarp to find a bloodied Dzhokhar Tsarnaev inside.
Police apprehended the wounded suspect after a brief shootout, close to where he and his older brother engaged in a gunfight with police nearly 24 hours earlier.
Tsarnaev, originally from Chechnya, was a student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. His family immigrated to the United States as refugees about 10 years ago.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev studied at a local community college and was a Golden Gloves boxer. He leaves behind a wife and young child. The FBI questioned him two years ago for terrorist ties at the request of a foreign government, but cleared him.
Why these two committed such horrible acts is unknown, but once again America’s innocence and freedom are the casualties.
We apparently have crossed a line in this country. Mass attacks are no longer the exception. They are the norm.
April tends to be a violent month anyway.
Over the past 20-years several extremist incidents have taken place in April: the fiery death of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas (Apr. 19, 1993); OK City (Apr. 19, 1995); Columbine (Apr. 20, 1999); and Virginia Tech (Apr. 16, 2007).
Patriots’ Day is a civic holiday in Massachusetts. It falls on the third Monday in April, and commemorates the anniversary of the first battles of the American Revolution that took place on April 19, 1775.
In recent years, Second Amendment activists and anti-government zealots have tried to co-opt April 19 as a symbolic date in their cause.
This stems from the siege in Waco ironically coming to a deadly close on April 19, where 76 Branch Davidians perished. Also, Timothy McVeigh purposely selected 04/19 because it was the Waco anniversary, as the day he detonated a bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring over 800.
It’s believed Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold intended to carry out the Columbine massacre on April 19 as well but were delayed. Instead it took place on the 20th, which happens to be Adolf Hitler’s birthday.
It’s unclear yet why the Boston bombings were committed, but I can’t say that it matters terribly. Whether the Tsarnaev brothers turn out to be Islamist jihadists, right-wing radicals, Chechen freedom fighters, or pissed off Bostonians, no excuse is going to make this occurrence any more comforting.
One thing this incident showed is that if any interested parties want to hit soft targets, there is little to prevent it.
If we start seeing bombs exploding where people congregate, like at movie theaters, the grocery, or high school football games, freedom evaporates.
I lived in Washington, DC during the Beltway sniper attacks. That was a hell of a feeling to have to worry about being shot while crossing a street or filling a car up with gas. The same would be true if Walmarts started indiscriminately blowing up. It would fill the country with uncertainty.
For law enforcement, there is nothing scarier than dealing with a subject who is prepared to die.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was wearing a suicide bomb vest when he was killed by authorities. We have to assume that he intended to detonate that vest if he had reached the police who were engaging him in a firefight.
This level of mission-ready planning is new for this country. The preparation, munitions, disregard of authority, and willingness to murder police officers is more often seen south of our borders where drug cartels operate.
It’s also a level of behavior seen by our military on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One thing I would like to see come out of this tragedy, is perhaps our nation will better appreciate what our troops have to deal with while fighting in the Middle East.
People getting on a bus or stepping inside a grocery to grab an item or two and… Boom!
Women, children, dead babies, and body parts strewn everywhere.
In The New York Times on April 16, it was reported that there were 20 attacks around Iraq on Monday alone that killed close to 50 people and wounded nearly 200.
Homemade bombs blew up two schools that were to serve as polling places.
Hell only half our country goes to the trouble to vote already. Can you imagine if we had to worrying about getting blown up when going to the ballot box?
We often fail to sufficiently appreciate the barbaric violence war-torn countries deal with on a daily basis. Now America is getting a taste.
The question is, was Boston the beginning of a new level of guerrilla terrorism in America?
Something else Boston revealed is that privacy is a diminishing commodity in this country. We have not yet reached the oppressive level of governmental surveillance described by George Orwell in “1984,” but we’re getting there.
The funny thing is a sizeable portion of our privacy we have chosen to serve up voluntarily. Through Twitter, texting and Facebook, people leave a surprisingly detailed digital trail about their lives.
A precedent is being set, whereby people have lowered the expectation of privacy, and begun to be more comfortable living their lives in a virtual public arena.
After 9/11, New York’s police department instituted a citywide camera system that is unprecedented.
In Boston we saw a decentralized version of the same thing, whereby authorities were able to track the suspects’ movements by splicing together footage from individual stores.
I would expect after this bombing several cities will allocate state and federal money to install greater citywide surveillance networks in the name of national security.
This sounds like a plausible response on the surface, but it does beg the question of what is done with this footage and where is it archived?
Is it being run through a massive NSA computer database?
I don’t know what applicable use it might have, but there is information to be gleaned about society as a whole from this mundane footage. It might be an unintended consequence of these cameras, but that shouldn’t be the government’s purview.
You combine this enhanced video surveillance with a lower expectation of privacy, and all it takes is the right terrorist incident for the government to suspend habeas corpus once again and allow all sorts of civil rights violations under the guise of the Patriot Act.
By no means am I taking any of the blame away from the terrorists for their cowardly behavior, but with each passing incident there is a corollary response from the government that boils down to the “Land of the Free” getting a little less free.
Now before I get out of here, I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically mention the impact the Boston bombing had upon the world’s oldest annual marathon, dating to 1897, and to those who run it.
Distance runners are a quirky bunch. They are regimented, determined and can deal with a high threshold of pain for long periods of time.
That’s what running is, pain control amidst the meditation that comes with covering long distances.
I ran the Boston Marathon once, the 100th running in 1996. It was the apex of my athletic endeavors.
I’m not sure if people realize it or not, but you can’t just sign up and pay a fee to run Boston. You have to qualify in a sanctioned marathon that same year and post a specified finish time based upon age and gender.
This means Boston isn’t full of a bunch of first time runners struggling to cover the distance. It boasts the best public running field in the country.
While there is a definite international flair to this race, it maintains a distinctly local feel.
People come back to this tradition year after year, bringing along friends and family. There is no degree of separation between the runners and those attending. Basically everybody there either has run this race or knows someone running.
The crowd understands the pain each runner is enduring, so they cheer with vigor, like only those who live in a great sports town like Boston can, to help lift the participants so they will forget the anguish until they cross the finish line.
That last 1/2-mile after turning onto Boylston Street is a straight adrenaline rush. It’s a celebration, as tens of thousands are there to let each participant know it’s almost over, good job, now finish strong.
This is the only moment I actually wished the race had lasted a little longer.
I was injured coming into my Boston Marathon, having strained tendons in my qualifying race. But that crowd lifted me up with their voices and well wishes and carried me home.
I gutted out a 4:29:55 finish, which is 80-minutes slower than my qualifier, but the crowd, the history and the competition at Boston elicit that kind of inspiring effort.
My hat is off to all those entrants who put forth this same level of commitment, but were prevented from finishing.
I will close simply by saying I’m sorry to all those who were killed and injured, to their families and to the city of Boston.
Blowing up this race was like blowing up a family picnic.
It’s not something that will ever be forgotten.
But as President Obama indicated at the interfaith memorial service for the victims, “Boston, you will run again.”
Let’s huddle up as a nation and heal, then get back out there to fight so this doesn’t happen again.
America needs to regain its compassion for those living within her shores, and stop all this partisan political bickering, otherwise these separatist acts of violence will only get worse.
We have a wealth and education gap that is rapidly leaving citizens disenfranchised. We need to balance our budget and get back to making America a better place for all of us instead of only for the top 1 percent.
All this squabbling over guns, religion and abortion is ridiculous. People need to mind their own business, stop worrying about what is going on in other households, and stop meddling in the business of other countries.
This necessitates that we find a way to become energy independent.
We still have a chance to fix this, but it is a bit like global warming, we are getting close to the point of no return. America has come through so much. It would be criminal to give up on the future of what this country promises.