It’s hard not to be shaken to the core by the horrific attacks at today’s marathon. The deaths, the mutilation, scores of injuries, and fear. The assault on what can only be described as an iconic (yes, I know the word is over-used) event, emblematic of the spirit of Boston.
I have never lived more than a few blocks from the marathon route. As a young child living near B.C. in Boston, I walked up to Commonwealth Avenue to watch Johnny Kelley and the “foreigners,” at that time from Scandanavia. As an adult living in Newton, I’ve had to walk only a scant mile to the route. The spirit is always uplifting. Families and friends applaud for their loved ones, for those running for charities, for wheelchair racers. Everyone cheers for strugglers and stragglers, for their heroism in even tempting to complete the race. Never, in our wildest dreams, could we have envisioned this.
Marathon Day is a bond that ties. And now this. Tonight we have more questions than answers. Who is responsible for perpetrating this assault? How much security is enough? Have we all relaxed too much in the last decade? Were devices really left in unsealed barrels? If large public events in major cities with lots of planning and high security are vulnerable, what happens when terrorists turn to soft targets like shopping malls or the small towns surrounding Hopkinton, Topeka or Peoria? In coming days we will debate why backpacks are allowed along the route without being searched. But, on non-Marathon days, for how long and how broadly do we want random searches of personal belongings? How much of our open society are we willing to give up, and how much are we willing to pay for even more protection?
Yesterday, my husband and I were driving home from New York and decided to go through Newtown, Connecticut. Struck by how absolutely ordinary looking is the town where the tragic elementary school shootings took place in December, we talked about how evil can strike absolutely anywhere. Newtown looked like parts of Framingham, Natick, Needham or Canton. Twenty-four hours later, the message had been driven home. The New York Times issued a report (since taken down) that, in addition to the chaos in Boston, there was an unexploded device discovered in Newton.
Certainly, the Boston Marathon will never be the same. Our sense of safety, which may always have been illusory, is shattered. We grieve for those who have lost lives and limbs. And we grieve for Boston, our hometown, which, from this day on, will join the ranks of other places remembered for their tragedies as well as for their charms and histories of accomplishment.
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