Federal investigators were searching for a man that a video caught planting one of the two bombs that exploded in the tightly crowded sidelines of the Boston Marathon this week, killing three people and leaving over 180 wounded. The video, from a Lord & Taylor department store camera directly across the street from the blasts, showed a man wearing a white baseball cap turned backward who carried and then dropped a black backpack at the site. Still photos of the crowd taken before the bombings showed at least one other man carrying a black backpack like that found shredded after the explosions. The coordinated bombings on the city’s Patriots’ Day were the worst terror attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. The bombs were fashioned out of pressure cookers, and packed with explosives, ball bearings, and shards of metal so as to kill or maim as many as possible. They were hidden in black nylon bags about 100 yards from each other, near the end of the marathon route.
Both exploded within seconds of each other about four hours into Monday’s race, ripping through spectators and creating a wave of panic. Emergency workers on hand to care for dehydrated athletes were soon treating bodies shredded by shrapnel, and wrapping makeshift tourniquets around severed limbs. At least 10 victims lost limbs in the blasts, and 23 were still in critical condition days later. Among the dead was Martin Richard, 8, who was at the finish line with his mother and sister, who were gravely injured. The other dead were identified as 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, of Arlington, and Lu Lingzi, a Chinese graduate student at Boston University. President Obama condemned the “heinous and cowardly” attacks, saying they were being investigated as acts of terrorism. “We will find whoever harmed our citizens and we will bring them to justice,” he said. Meanwhile, major cities across the U.S. placed themselves on high alert.
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What the editorials said
From Bunker Hill to the Tea Party rebellion against the British, our vibrant, defiant city has served as the cradle of America’s liberty, said The Boston Globe. Perhaps we were attacked because the marathon takes place on Patriots’ Day, or perhaps it was simply that the marathon finish line made such “a vulnerable target for a bomber—all those people in such close quarters.” But Bostonians have “a resilient spirit” that enabled us to face down 18th-century tyrants, and will enable us to defy 21st-century terrorists.
The city began fighting back “within seconds of the blasts,” said CSMonitor.com, as uninjured runners and spectators, military personnel, and first responders rushed to help the wounded, defying the threat of further explosions. Fear and suffering was flooded with bravery and compassion—proof that whatever threat terrorists pose to our way of life, they are powerless to harm our “free, caring, and peaceful society.” Still, this attack “is a reminder of the continuing need for heightened defenses against terror threats,” said The Wall Street Journal. In recent years, some Americans have grown complacent, and have concluded that since al Qaida “is all but defeated, we can relax.” But aggressive intelligence and police work has broken up numerous plots by “homegrown terrorists.”
What the columnists said
We can only speculate as to the motives of whoever committed this monstrous act, said Joel Achenbach in The Washington Post. Coordinated bombings at high-profile events are classic al Qaida tactics, and the organization’s “magazine,” Inspire, recently featured instructions on how to make a bomb with a pressure cooker. But the timing of the attacks—the day our taxes are due, and within a week of the date of the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City—could point to a domestic terrorist with an anti-government agenda. Worse, it could just be a “lone wolf with a private agenda,” wanting to create mayhem for mayhem’s sake.
Indeed, this bombing may herald the arrival of a new kind of terrorist, said Conrad Black in NationalReview.com. “The copycat amateur” need not be connected to a larger terrorist organization; he may share their ideology and resentments, but acts alone, constructing crude, homemade bombs. While these types of killers are “less of a threat to civilization than a terrorist network,” they are also far more difficult to stop in advance through intelligence work.
Still, we cannot give in to panicky security measures, said Bruce Schneier in TheAtlantic.com. Terrorism is designed to instill fear and pressure us into an over-reaction. That’s exactly what happened after 9/11, when the fear of another attack provoked us into changing our laws and security procedures, making us less free. But when we choose to “be indomitable in the face of terror,” the terrorists lose. As the stoic Israelis and British have demonstrated so well, such “resilience comes with experience,” said Daniel Klaidman in TheDailyBeast.com.And sadly, Americans have gained experience with terrorism. After this week’s bombing, security was stepped up in all big American cities, but most people went about their business as normal, packing into train stations, restaurants, and stores. “It was as if to say, ‘We will not be cowed or intimidated.’”
If you want to see resilience in action, just look at Boston, said Dennis Lehane in The New York Times. Whoever committed this hateful act “messed with the wrong city.” We Bostonians aren’t soft; “we love the hard things—blizzards, the bleachers in Fenway Park, a good brawl over a contested parking space.” When authorities drag the cowardly culprit or culprits to justice, “we’ll roll our eyes at whatever backward ideology they embrace and move on with our lives.”
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