I first heard about the Boston Marathon bombing shortly after it happened, via an email from a friend. He was at mile 17, running for charity as many runners were, when a woman near him got a text message reporting there had been a blast near the finish line. He said that within 15 minutes, the police had closed the course and ended the race.
He and other runners were bussed to a church on the campus of Boston College where he waited for approximately two hours until the police allowed him to leave. When he did leave, he stepped into the eerie silence of deserted Boston streets. He walked until he reached a location where cars were allowed and then hitched a ride with a fellow marathoner.
I followed the breaking news, as many people did. Meanwhile, I'd been trying for a couple of days, without success, to reach a member of my writing group. She doesn't always check her emails, so I didn't think much of it. I wanted to know if she planned to meet with us Wednesday night. Wednesday afternoon I received this message:
"Came home from Boston marathon last night. We're safe, but very shaken."
Need I say that I found the news unsettling? When she got to my house that night, she told the group that her husband had been racing for charity and was about two miles from the finish line when the bombs were detonated. She described the pandemonium in the aftermath of the explosions, of people who didn't know where to go or how to find loved ones. There was no cell service, only texting worked. She couldn't reach her husband, so she returned to the hotel to wait. She was in the lobby when police ordered everyone to leave the building. No one knew if there were more bombs.
My friend did leave but shortly afterward she weighed the relative safety of the street versus her room on an upper floor of the hotel and opted for the room. Once inside, she propped open the electronic door with a shoe so she wouldn't get trapped inside in the event of a power outage caused by an explosion.
In the rush to scoop competitors, the reporting by some news agencies turned out to be totally wrong. My theory about the perpetrator's identity formed when I read this:
"The race drew 27,000 runners and has been run since 1897 on Patriots Day, the third Monday in April, which commemorates Lexington and Concord, the two battles in Massachusetts that started the American Revolution. This year, the race coincided with the filing deadline for federal taxes. Security experts said the FBI would undoubtedly look into the possible significance of the date as they tried to find the bomber and the motive."Another Timothy McVeigh, I thought. However, as soon as I saw that first grainy video shots of the two suspects, I knew that was wrong, too. As it turned out, the bombers were brothers and ethnic Chechens.
Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev (pronounced joe-HARR tsar-NAH-yev)
I attended a wedding in Moscow at the height of the Russian conflict with the subject republic of Chechnya. The bride's father, a retired Colonel in the Russian army, guided us through the city's subway system with steely-eyed watchfulness, scanning the crowd for suspicious characters carrying heavy-looking backpacks. I understood his caution. Many innocent Russian civilians had lost their lives to Chechen separatists' bombs. I understand there is another side to that story, but what I'll never understand is why anybody would target Martin Richard.
Author Dennis Lehane, a Dorchester native, posted these words on his Facebook page shortly after the bombing:
"...It's hard to imagine any people more inspiring than all those people who dashed across Boylston Street within seconds of the first explosion, and rushed to the aid of the injured. Didn't give their own safety a thought. Made me proud to be a member of the human race, which I think was the exact opposite of the effect the bomber was hoping for...So proud to be a Bostonian tonight. So brokenhearted to be one, too."The actions of first responders and bystanders was indeed heroic, but there were also less visible acts of solidarity and kindness, including the marathoner who gave my friend a ride and the management of the hotel where my other friends were staying that provided a free buffet to stranded runners in sweaty gear and anybody else who wandered in off the street.
In this mad, mad, mad, mad world in which we live, I mourn the loss of those who died and those who were so gravely injured. I also thank whatever gods that be for sparing so many others, including my three friends.