The finish line of the Boston Marathon was rocked by two bombs early yesterday afternoon. At least three people were killed, including an eight-year-old boy, and well over 100 were injured, many very badly. The New York Times story is here. Several hundred North Carolina residents ran the marathon, and at least one was injured in the blast, according to this News and Observer report. Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour was among the finishers and is quoted in the article.
No one has claimed responsibility, no one is in custody, and the authorities haven’t publicly identified any suspects. The bombings could be the work of an international terrorist group such as Al Qaeda; domestic extremists; or a “lone wolf.” The fact that the attack took place on tax filing day, and Patriots Day, may be significant or may not.
If the perpetrator or perpetrators of this attack are caught and prosecuted, there will be time for discussing issues like what charges apply, whether the death penalty should be sought (and, since Massachusetts abolished capital punishment in 1984, whether the case should be brought in state or federal court), and how many public dollars should be spent prosecuting and defending what would be a complicated and high-profile case.
For now, though, I want to address something else. I have watched the video of the first bomb going off many times. Each time, I am awed and humbled by the reaction of the police and other first responders. They overcame the animal instinct to flee, faced the blast, and moved towards it, looking for some way to help and for something to do. So while this terrible incident is a reminder of human depravity and fragility, it also illustrates the human capacity for bravery and self-sacrifice.