Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Nation reacts to Boston Marathon bombing
Story originally appeared on USA Today.
Once again, the familiar shock.
An icon is attacked, people suffer, and people watch from afar, grasping for meaning and solace in the perpetual loop of news and social media.
Just minutes after bombs went off Monday afternoon near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, software engineer Marty Cano was at a gas station in Killeen, Texas. A clerk there told him, he said, that "America's been bombed again." So the software engineer rushed across the street to the VFW Club, where his grandfather is a member, and told the bartender to turn off the jukebox and turn on the TV.
And for some time, he said, "everybody was just glued" to the reports.
"Sad to say, but pretty much in this day and age you expect it, whether it be every two years or five years, or whatever," Cano said, of wanton mass violence. Hours after first learning of it, he said, "I'm still taking it in — not sure what to think."
That recoil has become familiar, a grasp at why, a reminder of what preceded it. For some watching from afar, the chaotic early reports coming out of Boston rekindled memories of Sept. 11, 2001, even as they reminded themselves to not draw premature conclusions.
"In today's world, where we see these things instantly, my first reaction was to those folks that were killed or injured in this horrible event," said Lee Ielpi, president and co-founder of the September 11 Families' Association in New York. "It makes me, of course think back 12 years. And it's kind of sad, considering this beautiful world we live in, that the first thing we flash back to is 12 years ago."
The retired firefighter said he heard about the bombings within two or three minutes through a network of firefighters online. "With all this new technology you hear about it almost the absolute second something happens," Ielpi said.
Ielpi's son, Jonathan, a firefighter as well, lost his life on 9/11.
The symbolism, intended or not, was immediately apparent. Two bombs went off in the 26th mile of the Boston Marathon, near the finish line, a mile that had been dedicated to the shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.
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Nurse and mother Colleen Tretter was attending a fundraiser in Somerset County, Pa., less than 10 miles from where Flight 93 crashed when passengers overwhelmed hijackers on 9/11. She lives five miles north of the Shanksville, Pa., crash site, and that memory melded with her personal experience in a sad, new way.
Tretter is a marathoner herself, and the incongruity of someone using that event, where families gather on Patriots' Day to celebrate the American Revolution and a premier marathon in this country, struck her hard.
"As a runner, you always know that early April race, you always look forward to it,": she said. "I was astonished. ..I never thought of that as a dangerous place beyond running the 26.2" miles.
Social media again provided opportunities for community, catharsis and careless speculation. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted that his city's police department "stepped up security at strategic locations" including subways. Google set up a special "person finder" where people could post queries to try to locate friends or loved ones, and for those in or near the explosions to post their whereabouts.