Everyone who lives in Boston knows Patriots Day. Kids get the day off from school, the Red Sox play an 11 a.m. game and the Boston Marathon takes place.
In fact the organizers of the marathon and the Red Sox management coordinate so that when the Sox game finishes the crowd will be leaving Fenway Park at about the time the frontrunners in the marathon pass by close to the end of the race.
And then about a half a million people — or more — line the 26-mile route and cheer on the actual competitors, the hobbyists and those running for a variety of charities and special causes, like the team from Newtown, Connecticut running for the families of the victims in the mass murder that took place in that town December 14, 2012.
The Boston Marathon — it’s been going on for 116 years and is one of the biggest single day sporting events in America, if not the world. It is actually the first marathon to be organized outside of the Olympics. People come from around the world to compete or to just get in the spirit of the event. I have friends here in California that go or have gone just so they can say they ran in the Boston Marathon. It’s a huge event and defines Boston as much as the Red Sox.
For many Americans the Boston Marathon is as American as apple pie and John Wayne. But in anti-terrorism circles the Boston Marathon is called a “soft target,” and it’s a really soft target at that.
Hundreds of thousands of people packed into a small area paying attention to 20,000-plus runners in a race. On top of that, the runners, for those who don’t know, leave their backpacks at the finish line so when they complete the run they can get their things; water bottles, clothes, etc. and carry on with their day. Nobody thinks twice about unattended backpacks at a marathon because there are literally thousands of them.
An unattended backpack at any other event would have the police and first responders responding with bomb-sniffing dogs and all the other paraphernalia that goes along with the local bomb unit. But not at a marathon or other such running event. If Grandma sent you a box of cookies and you took the bus to pick it up from the post office—and then forgot the package on the bus, well you’d first have to explain it to Grandma, but it would get reported and that bus would be stopped, the package searched and removed and if they saw you on surveillance video leaving it, you would then be a target of the investigation. But not at the Boston Marathon. There, a backpack sitting on the ground is common.
About four hours into the race, after all the frontrunners had crossed the finish line and during that period when the non-competitors would be packed in the tightest and there would be the largest crowds of the day waiting for friends and loved ones to finish the race, two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing Krystle Campbell, 29, Martin Richard, 8 and a 23-year old Chinese graduate student.
A person or persons unknown with equally unknown motives had violated this once happy-go-lucky holiday. As of 27 hours later, authorities are still looking for the suspects. The questions of who and why may take a while to answer, but with thousands of cameras in the area, both still and video, the FBI and local law enforcement are hoping to get some leads from the three terabytes of photos and video they have collected since Monday.
The question is: how will this change Boston and its famous marathon? How will it change America? Will future marathoners be able to leave their things unattended, like they have been doing for decades? We hardly notice the changes that have taken place since the attacks of September 11, 2001. We calmly accept the beefed up security and those of us that bristle at how our civil liberties are being whittled away with unwarranted wiretapping and eavesdropping, among other assaults on the Bill of Rights. For the most part our complaints fall on deaf ears. We live in a post 9-11 world now.
How long will we remain angry over this event? The bombs were constructed in pressure cookers, the ubiquitous kitchen appliance that can be found in millions of home, just in America. What’s a salesperson going to think, or say, when people buy pressure cookers from the local Wal-Mart or Target?
Pressure cookers … who knew? We all know now. It’s like box cutters. Who would have considered a box cutter a weapon before the attacks of September 11, 2001?
Because the information to make these and other bombs is readily available on the Internet, just about anyone can make one — or two. Which means the suspect list could include just about any domestic or foreign person or group. In fact it does, although law enforcement might have whittled down the list a little, considering all the advancements in forensic science.
The average American just wants to know who would do this and why?
Of course we have the nut cases weighing in. On Monday one of those nuts, Dan Bidondi of InfoWars, had the temerity to ask Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts if this was a case of a “… another false flag staged attack to take our civil liberties and promote Homeland Security while sticking their hands down our pants on the streets?”
Where would someone get that crazy idea? Radio talk show host Alex Jones. On his radio show Jones said the evidence proving this bombing was staged by the federal government was overwhelming. This is the same nut case who is pushing the conspiracy theories that that government staged the mass shootings in Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT.
That wouldn’t be such a big deal, but Jones gets airtime on FoxNews so his crazy talk gets picked up and spread through social media like Facebook and Twitter.
This only serves to prolong and deepen the grief of those personally touched by these tragedies.
Yes, the crazies crawl out of the woodwork when these events take place, but most people recoil at the nonsense they spew, almost as much as the event itself. It will go unnoticed for the most part as we focus our attention on the victims. There are candle light vigils taking place and people all over the country, the world even, are paying their respects to Boston as best they know how.
We will get past this, as we usually do, but we may never look at the Boston Marathon the same way, maybe for a few years anyway. But we’re Americans and we like to enjoy ourselves, to do what the Declaration of Independence says we can do: pursue happiness. We’ve never let these tragedies destroy our spirit and this bombing of the Boston Marathon won’t do it either. We need to be vigilant for the perpetrator(s) of this act and future attacks.
We also need to be vigilant so we don’t over-react by treating everyone that seems different like suspects. And we need to resist the urge to whittle away at our civil liberties even more than has already taken place. Nothing says “they” won like turning our nation into a police state.
Most of all we need to remember all the victims of this horrific crime. The rest of us may bounce back from this, but for the families of the three people killed in these blasts, as well as all those injured, will spend a lifetime reliving Monday’s events. We just don’t get over the loss of a loved one, especially a child, to these kinds of tragedies. Victims and their families learn to deal with it, although some don’t.
As we go about returning to life as usual, let’s remember these victims and their families. Their lives will never be the same again.
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality.