Boston: One Week Later

If you keep up a regular online presence in any given medium, as I do, there are events that in some ways call for a response, even if they don’t fall within your usual topics of discussion. I imagine the attack on the Boston Marathon last week would qualify as such an event. Obviously it has for me and this blog.

And yes. “Last week”. Can it be that a week ago the moment of this writing, Boston had never been hit with a terrorist attack? That 170 people were not injured? That four people were not dead? That nobody had ever head of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? That non-locals such as myself had not heard of Watertown or Boylston Street? Or Patriot Day?

It can be, and is true. As I right this, exactly one week ago all of that was true. The attack had not even happened yet. The longest week in Boston possibly since the Revolution had yet to get underway. Yet to become one of the most dramatic weeks in the whole country, in fact, in recent years as no doubt vivid memories of September 11, 2001 entered the minds of everyone who experienced that.

So similar and yet so different from 9/11, though. Innocent people died violent deaths. People severely injured. A city turned upside down with fear. Conspiracy theories, bigotry and the blame game all in common with 9/11.

Yet in some ways, this was worse than 9/11. To begin with until 9/11, September 11 is simply a day. Patriot Day, however, has been a day of great pride and significance to all of Massachusetts  A day which will continue to be so, (just ask any Bostonian) but will, regardless, now forever at least bare the scar of this attack. Something that was specifically good take a direct hit.

Also, though the death toll was lower, the carnage seemed more in one’s face in Boston last week. (Almost last week.) Pools of blood seen from the helicopter shot. Limbs blown off, lying in the street. The celebratory nature of one of the most filmed finish lines in all of history turning into hell before our very eyes, four hours, 9 minutes and 43.5 seconds into the race.

No doubt there were some hellish images captured of the 9/11 attacks. But something had obviously already gone wrong by the time cameras started rolling. In Boston, we have a full view of the final moments Boston would ever be the same, followed immediately by the moment that changed everything forever.

9/11 was, to ironically borrow a term, “shock and awe”. Especially in New York, as the destruction was so massive, so stunning, that one hardly sees carnage when one looks at the towers falling. They almost melt out of existence. And while bodies were recovered, many were incinerated either on impact, or pulverized in the collapses. This does not make it any less horrendous, only less biologically graphic.

As opposed to shock and awe, Boston was like someone breaking into your home and shooting you point blank in the gut, only to leave without robbing you. Horrifying still, but in a completely different way.

Also different was the aftermath. We don’t know yet if the Marathon Bombers were connected to some cell, acting on orders, or just screwed up in their own right. That perhaps will come. But we do know the following: On Monday last there was a bombing and the devastation and confusion set in. A few days later, some false reports of people being under arrest. Later that same day, videos and photos of suspects are released. In the following wee hours of the night, the suspects flee, and in a shootout with police. One dies, the other gets away. both are identified by name.

A manhunt the likes of which even New York on 9/11 did not see begins, and Boston becomes essentially a ghost town for about eight hours. Rare was the person wasn’t law enforcement or National Guard on the streets that day.

Then that night another shoot out. A quasi-standoff for a few hours, and the injured remaining subject is taken into custody alive. And…cut. End of scene. Over. They got him. All within a few days.

There is much more to learn and to do, of course. But the direct fear that gripped Boston seems, as of now, to be over with the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Both the individual and the collective nightmares will of course continue for a while. And for the victims and their families, the nightmares may never stop.

We of course ask why in both cases. We struggled with lost innocence, the nature of evil, and our own mortality in both 9/11 and the Marathon attacks. Truly, I don’t presume to have any answers, or even any suggestions of answers to those questions and concerns. Much of what I could say has already been said, and will be said again over and over. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t say it, it just means I’m not going to in this venue at this time.

I will say that the more we experience these terrible events, the more we need to exercise caution of spirit. We must work extra hard each time there is a bombing not to be filled with hate ourselves. To seek justice but not vengeance. To refrain from judging entire demographics. To remember that every American citizen is entitled to due process and to not let attacks like this abandon our ideals of freedom and privacy.

Perhaps above all, we need to remember to love as much as we can after each of these events. Not only because love is just about all we can do at such times, but because it may just be our love that prevents the next person from turning into someone like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Maybe.


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