Today we feel yesterday changed everything while in truth except for those directly affected by the deaths, injuries and trauma of the April 15, 2013, terrorist bombing nothing on the ground has really changed.
Our deepest sympathies go out to the young family that lost its precious 8-year-old son and to the mother and sibling suffering with their wounds as well as to the families of those others who died. And to those who lost limbs or have been severely injured in body and/or soul and their families and friends.
We’ve experience an ever so slight touch of war. Two apparently low-grade, unsophisticated (as far as we now know) bombs set off on a crowded city street on a spring holiday. Two people who served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan standing nearby the bomb site instinctively crouched down upon hearing the first blast — looking at each other their faces reflected their thoughts: “It couldn’t be happening here!”
It had. War dipped its ruinous finger onto a Boylston Street sidewalk and snapped us back to what we should have recognized as a constant since 9/11 — or even perhaps earlier since that other Patriot’s Day attack on April 19, 1995 — that the threat of being bombed is a constant reality. That there is little that can be done to stop a person intent on doing this cowardly evil act. The materials are readily available along with the instructions.
They always have been. As young teenagers we’d get sulfur, saltpeter and charcoal, mix them together, put it into a homemade cannon onto which we loaded an empty tin can and fire it. Timothy McVeigh used some materials readily available, some stolen, to cause his destruction. I’m told the instructions to make these bombs are easily found on the internet.
11 years, 7 months, and 4 days slipped by between terrorist attacks. Boston has been involved in the two latest. We’ve kept our guard up while we let our fears slide down. The last time I walked through South Station I glanced at the bomb proof barrels and thought of them as an anachronism — a reminder of the days of fear that had long passed.
The apprehension one once felt when getting off a train at Penn Station or South Station; of walking into the Metropolitan Opera House (its security being an old volunteer glancing into one’s bag) or Fenway Park; or being in a crowd when the thought of how easy it would be for a terrorist to strike had nearly vanished. Nearly, but not quite totally.
Now it’s reawakened. We’ll continue on with our business as usual, I’m told Boston is back to doing what it always has done on a work day, but a little more wary. The stock market is open and active — and up strongly at this writing as if the bombings never happened — how little affected the American people seem to be. For those in Boston outside the cordoned off area, the outward signs of yesterday’s horrors are shown only by the heightened presence of police and news media satellite trucks.
We’re told the FBI is in charge of the investigation. This is not the FBI we have seen that’s involved in the Whitey saga or Garner Museum art theft, but the real deal FBI. The agents from the home office, the best of the Bureau, with all its forensic and behavioral science units will be involved. The same people who descended upon the Oklahoma City bombing. They’d have gotten McVeigh in a couple of days but a stop by an Oklahoma Trooper Charlie Hanger moved up the time.
There are over 300 million of us. The material for making these bombs is readily available. We can be eternally grateful that these horrendous events strike home rarely. Our thoughts and prayers fly off to the victims; our thanks to the responders: police, fire, medical and the average Joe or Jane. We have no choice but to go on.
The fear has increased. As horrible as the Marathon ending bombs were, we can only think how fortunate, and perhaps lucky, we have been that over a decade has passed since we last felt the terrorists’ lash. We can be thankful that we are privileged not to be Syrians or other Middle Eastern people, especially the children, who have faced constant deaths from bombings.
Today was not the day to talk of Whitey. It is a time to reflect. I’ll get back to the topic soon enough.