Monday, April 15, 2013

Blood in Boston

I used to work as a sports copy editor, and, in those days, you never saw an article from the Boston Marathon on the front page of the newspaper.

Times have changed. I can guarantee that the Boston Marathon will be on the front page of every newspaper tomorrow, but that has nothing to do with the race.

It has everything to do with the explosions that occurred near the finish line this afternoon.

Initially, it was thought there had been three explosions, but, as I write this, it appears that the third event — a fire or explosion at the nearby JFK library — was a bizarre irony.

When I heard that, I immediately thought of the hijackings of 2001 — and how I heard of planes crashing into the World Trade Center ... and then the Pentagon. Perhaps it was due to the fact that my office did not have a television, but there was a lot of confusion in my workplace that day — and a lot of misinformation floating around, even from people who had been in contact with friends and relatives who were watching things unfold on TV.

There is always some confusion around an event like this, and, sadly, I have become well acquainted with them. I was living a short distance from Oklahoma City when the federal building there was bombed (the 18th anniversary of that event will be this Friday, by the way); it is safe to say that my exposure to that event was more intense than it was for most.

And I, like most Americans, remember the confusion that was part of the developing story on 9–11. A few years later, I watched, transfixed, as the news coverage of the series of bombings in London flooded the airwaves.

The only things that seem clear are that at least three people are dead tonight, more than 100 are injured (some have lost limbs), and no one has claimed responsibility.

The investigators may already have an idea who was responsible, but they are keeping their cards hidden — as good investigators do.

In the days ahead, I expect many of the pressing questions to be answered — perhaps not always to everyone's satisfaction but answered, nonetheless.

There were people from all over the world in Boston today; consequently, I expect to hear eventually of injured — possibly even deceased — people from several countries.

There may even be things about this case that will surprise me.

Actually, the only thing that I am sure of — at least, as sure as anyone can be at this point — is that this was a coordinated, organized attack that almost certainly involved more than one person. I don't know if it was carried out by a domestic or foreign group. I suppose that is a detail we will learn in due course.

For now, I am willing to let the investigators do their work — which, I suppose, is an easy thing for me to do, considering that I am about 1,500 miles away and I won't have to put up with the inconvenience that many Bostonians will as they try to go about their daily business.

But investigators don't get to choose where a crime is committed. They can only investigate the scene of a crime, wherever that scene happens to be. This seems likely to be a difficult scene to process.

I wish them all the best in investigating this crime. I hope they bring those responsible to justice.

And I hope that we learn whatever we need to learn from this event to keep another one from happening.

But I am doubtful that will happen.

I am doubtful because, as is abundantly clear in the debate over guns, we tend to treat only the symptoms and not the disease.

The symptoms are the weapons that are used to kill and maim people.

The disease is whatever prompts one human being (or a group of human beings) to deliberately hurt or kill other human beings.

People who are bent on destruction will do it with whatever weapon is available to them. They will use guns — or knives, as we saw at the school in Houston last week — or explosive devices, as we saw in Boston today.

Until we are ready to face that problem with the vigor with which we attack inanimate objects, we will not rid our land of this epidemic of violence.

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