The 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing

The 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing

© David Burton 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombing

     Much has already been said and written about the tragedy of the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon. In the days, weeks, months and years to come, there will be considerably more said and written as the facts associated with this terrorist attack become known. At this time, just a mere week after the marathon itself, I have my own observations to record in writing.

     First, let me take note of the incredibly positive actions that occurred in the minutes, hours and the five days that followed the initial bomb blast near the finish line of the marathon.

The bystanders and the marathon participants: The immediate reaction of many of the bystanders and the marathon participants themselves was unselfish and heroic to say the least. Many rushed to the aid of the dying and injured without any hesitation, ignoring the possibility of additional explosions. The first aid they administered may have saved additional lives and spared the wounded from more serious consequences.

The first responders: The actions of the first responders that were present at the marathon finish line and those that arrived immediately following the blasts were still more examples of unselfish heroism. Here again, there was no hesitation in aiding the injured and thoughts of personal danger did not stop these first responders from doing what they were trained to do. Their actions minimized the loss of life and resulted in unbelievably prompt medical attention. They did all of this with the knowledge that additional bombs may have been planted and could be detonated at any minute.

The law enforcement agencies: In my view, American law enforcement never demonstrated its skill, competency and effectiveness as well as it did from the time of the bombing on Monday until the capture of the second suspect on Friday. All elements acted as a coordinated and well-trained unit. The speed of their response and the organization of their efforts were extraordinary. The professionalism exhibited was exemplary. Throughout it all, they kept the public informed, promoted a sense of security and professionalism, and exhibited a calm determination to catch those responsible. The willingness to put their lives on the line without any hesitation demonstrated the bravery and commitment of America’s law enforcement personnel to serve the American people. Unfortunately, one member of law enforcement was killed and one seriously wounded before the end of the search for the bombing suspects. American law enforcement has never had a prouder moment.

The public: The people in Boston and its surrounding communities demonstrated some truly unique American qualities over the 5-days during which the events transpired. There was no panic. There was a bonding and banding together to do what needed to be done to help the victims and assist the law enforcement people in their work. They submitted to shut-downs of public transportation, lock-downs of entire cities or business districts, disruptions in their lives, and putting up with the inconvenience of check points and searches without complaint. They helped runners and tourists to return to their hotels and even offered housing to those who couldn’t get back to their hotels. Restaurants rushed to provide meals to whoever needed them. And, the public instantly assisted in finding those responsible for the tragedy by calling in tips and by trying to identify the perpetrators from still and video pictures provided by the FBI on the local TV outlets. Throughout it all was the resolve to never let the terrorists win.

The media: By and large, (see one of my two complaints at the conclusion of this article) the media, particularly the local media, did a yeoman job in reporting on the events as soon as they unfolded. They instantly provided the outlet for official information, broadcast and printed the requests by law enforcement agencies to the public for information, and they allowed the law enforcement agencies to get the pictures of the suspects in front of the public as soon as they became available. The media, along with the law enforcement agencies and the greater Boston public, formed a team that brought a quick conclusion to the process of identifying, searching for and ultimately apprehending the criminals.

The marathon runners: Many, if not most of the participants in the 2013 Boston Marathon immediately vowed to return in 2014 to once again demonstrate that terrorism, in whatever form, cannot succeed in dampening the spirit of the truly free. If anything, terrorism practiced against America only revives and strengthens the American soul and resolve to never let evil prevail. As Admiral Yamamoto, the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is reported to have said when he found out that the attack had occurred before the delivery to United States of a declaration of war, “I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Such is the case today.

     Once again, the American people were tested and once again the American people have come together in response to a threat to our way of life. America has reacted calmly, decisively and effectively. There was no panic - just actions to immediately aid the victims and a burning resolve to find and bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime.

     The recovery process for many victims of the Boston Marathon bombing will be slow, arduous and expensive. Numerous victims suffered severe injuries to their lower limbs, with multiple patients having one or more amputations. The public response to the call for financial aid for the victims of the bombing has been amazing and will at least help to alleviate the financial pain to the victims and their families. Several sponsors of the Boston Marathon immediately stepped forward to donate money, amounting to several millions of dollars within 2 days. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Menino announced the formation of The One Fund Boston, the purpose of which was to raise money to help those families most affected by the tragic events of the Boston Marathon bombing. Donations straightaway began pouring in. Donors have flooded crowdfunding campaigns set up for individual victims of Monday's bombings. Efforts led by some victims' close friends and family members have gone viral, attracting thousands of donations from across the country and around the world. The response has been so overwhelming that it has not been possible to keep track of the amounts raised so far. Undoubtedly, the figure exceeded some $20 million by the first week’s end.

     I Have had only two negative reactions from what transpired in the days following the bombing. First, an observation concerning the local police that I made as I watched the television coverage – several of the local policemen were very overweight. This in no way is an aspersion on way they performed. They, along with the other members of law enforcement community, performed magnificently. But, overweight should not be a term describing them. For their own safety, as well as the safety of the people in the communities they serve, they need to be in the best physical shape possible. Overweight is not an asset in running down a teen-aged suspect or in running to the assistance of another police officer or a citizen in trouble. Our local police forces need to put in place requirements and procedures to ensure that their members maintain basic standards of physical fitness.

     My other negative reaction was in regard to the over-the-top news coverage by some of the media. All too often, television coverage was terrible because of the rush to be "first" or to have an “exclusive”. All too often, they filled up time with pure blather. My local television channel 7 breathlessly and repeatedly ran an “exclusive” clip of the sounds of gunfire. The video clip showed nothing but boring nighttime blackness with the sound of some gunfire instead of a simple statement, just once, stating that gunfire had been heard and the reasons, locations, etc. would be reported as soon as the needed and confirmed information could be gathered.

     At one point, soon after the bombing, there was a rumor that suspects had been captured and were on their way to the federal courthouse in Boston. Several TV stations ran with the rumor. There were video shots from news helicopters hovering over the courthouse showing cars driving into the courthouse with the suspects supposedly inside them. It was only sometime later that the red-faced TV stations found that the rumor was totally false.

     A responsibility when reporting on chaotic breaking news events is to understand that there isn’t a clear picture of what's occurring. Jumping to conclusions and putting out bad information can only confuse and make things worse. What we didn’t need after the bombing was "seat-of-the-pants" reporting that shot first and asked questions later. Our news media, particularly our on-the-scene TV reporting, needs to provide some kind of double check before they release their information to the public.

     Too many of the major TV stations filled up time with endless repetitions of no-news in order to stay on the air with their ongoing coverage of whatever they were covering. Their other ploy was to bring in “talking heads” who endlessly expounded on their unfounded “expert” opinions and premature conclusions. On top of that were the interviews with “bystanders”, neighbors and anyone else that they could get to stand in front of their cameras. I would much rather have had them stay with their regular programming and cut in whenever they had something truly new, significant and confirmed to report. As Sergeant Joe Friday might have said, “just the facts, ma’am.” Reporters need to remember that their coverage must be about facts, not speculation, rumors or conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, there were too many false reports of arrests and the publishing of photos of possible suspects - almost all of whom were subsequently proven to be innocent.

     Too many of the news media seem to have forgotten a cardinal rule of their profession, "Get it first, but first get it right" and replaced it with, "Get it first, and hope it's right."

     The story of the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon is far from over. We have only concluded the first chapter in the story. It would do everyone well to sit back and allow the law enforcement community and the American justice system do their work. Idle and uninformed speculation is useless. We need to let these agencies uncover the facts, determine if others were involved, and prepare to bring the lone remaining suspect to trial and retribution. For now, we need to thank everyone who helped to bring this first chapter to a successful conclusion and begin the process of learning from what has transpired so that there will be no next time. We also need to continue the process of helping the victims and their families to recover from this dreadful experience.

     As Boston Red Sox player, David Ortiz, emotionally said at Fenway Park at the conclusion of the event-filled week, "This is our fucking city! And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.God Bless America!

  22 April 2013 {Article 162; Whatever_29}    
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