Life is stupider than fiction: the Tsarnaev brothers

Should we feel good or bad that the trauma and heartache Boston suffered last week was apparently caused by two loser idiots?

I’ve just finished watching the first season of Homeland, where the terrorists are every bit as clever as the CIA and, in their own way, rather sympathetic.  If they weren’t, the show wouldn’t be watchable.  The Tsarnaev brothers are neither clever nor sympathetic and, as far as we know, weren’t pawns in the game of some Chechen mastermind. They were only smart enough to make some crude bombs and set them off.  Everything else about them was sheer pointless stupidity.

As far as I can tell, the brothers had no escape plan after the bombings; the younger one, at any rate, just went back to school at UMass Dartmouth, apparently confident that the investigative resources of the most powerful nation in the world wouldn’t find him.  When their photos were released, the brothers respond by hijacking a car, and they then: 1) let the driver escape; and 2) leave his cellphone in the car so the police can track them.  During the gunfight that follows, the younger brother manages to run over and kill his older brother, and then for some reason abandons the car and takes off on foot.  He finally decides to hide out in a boat in someone’s backyard, which simply delays the inevitable while he almost bleeds to death.

I suppose this doesn’t matter to the maimed; it surely doesn’t matter to the dead.  But I think some part of us wants a worthy adversary — the kind we see in the movies and on TV.  If we are going to be Boston Strong, we want to stand up to someone who is also strong.  Instead what we got was a pair of useless bums.

Voices from the Marathon

Stories from the folks at work today (with names redacted).

From a woman whose son ran:

What started off a beautiful day turned out surreal and frightening beyond belief. I was at the finish line to watch my son who was running for Mass Mentoring.  At that time, the runners were charity runners.   I was happy that I found a front row spot right at the street barricade on boylston between lord and taylor and the Lenox Hotel. The two bombs exploded right in front of us, at street level, one to the right and one to the left.  We could see people falling and injured , and as the crowds ran to the middle of the street,  we were left staggering in the middle of boylston street not knowing where to go and afraid that another bomb would go off.  We also could not find family members.  There was no way to call anyone, but my husband climbed a pole and found me and then we found my daughter in law who had been on the bleachers. but still no clue where my son was.   He was 3/4 of a mile from the finish line when they stopped the race.  Luckily some kind college students took him into their building and gave him a plastic blanket and some water and the use of their cell phone. We retrieved him from 400 comm ave and walked to Brookline.   We waited for transport home.  Thankfully we are all safe, but so very sad that some people who were standing not too far from me have been hurt or worse.

From a guy whose wife’s cousin was running:

I drove to MIT and walked over the bridge into Back Bay to guide my (wife’s) cousin and her husband back to my car. This was her second Boston Marathon. Due to some cramping, she was running behind her target pace, which is a good thing. Her target time would have put her at the finish line when the blasts occurred. Instead, her race ended at Mass Ave. From there she walked off the course and down to the Public Garden area to meet her husband.

She is full of praise for the residents of Boston, the race fans, and the other runners. While people at the blast site were understandably shocked, confused, and frightened, in the surrounding blocks the prevailing mood was one of calm, competent support and care. One resident came out of her apartment and handed her a thick comforter to keep warm in, asking only that she leave it on her stoop later if it was convenient, or just keep it if not.  This was not an isolated event, as residents throughout the area offered food, water, warmth, phones, and the like to anyone in need.  I spoke with a number of runners as I walked to the corner of Berkeley and Commonwealth. They were sad, and caring for each other, exchanging what news they had, and universally determined to run the next marathon to keep the bastards from winning.

From what I saw, law enforcement was firm yet polite about controlling the boundaries of the secured area, and as helpful as they could be given the circumstances and their necessary priorities. Since I wasn’t trying to get into the controlled area (few if any people seemed to be doing that), I walked mostly on Marlborough, a few blocks away or on Commonwealth Ave, and so can’t say anything about the immediate scene of the bombing. But from what I saw in the neighborhood, we should be proud to live and work near such a great city.  These are good people. who rise to face down the worst, and to help each other.

From one of our editors:

I was standing in front of LensCrafters, just a couple of doors down from Marathon Sports, where the first bomb went off. Fortunately, my buddy and I took a break for lunch about 1/1:30 and then left that area around 2/2:30. The bomb went off at 2:50.

He was in Harvard Square when I texted him to see if he was okay. He had no idea what had happened.  He was able to respond to me; soon his phone was lighting up with texts, but the network was overloaded and he couldn’t respond.  He listened to the events on the radio at a newsdealer in the Square for a while and ran into a Kenyan runner who had finished the race, and then for some unknown reason decided to run the five miles or so to Harvard Square after the bombs went off.  Very strange.

Here is a jersey hanging in the Red Sox dugout tonight; 617 is the Boston area code:

Patriots’ Day in Boston

It has always been special.

It’s spring!

It’s school vacation!

At dawn there’s a reenactment of the battle with the redcoats on Lexington Green!

At eleven in the morning there’s a Red Sox game!

And then there’s the marathon, where the best athletes in the world compete alongside your nephew, alongside the software developer who sits a hundred feet away from you.

I’ve been at the battle reenactment.  I’ve seen Bill Rodgers racing along Commonwealth Avenue towards the finish line.  I’ve ridden the T with the exhausted runners wearing their foil capes.

Now someone has taken it all away from us.  Now our son has to email us to say he and his friends are all right.  Now one of our editors has to text us that he left the finish line before it all happened.  The software developer reports that he and his wife and child were walking along Huntington Avenue when they heard the explosions, and suddenly everyone was running towards them and everything turned into chaos, but they’re safe at home now.

Everyone we know is okay.  But a wonderful part of our life has been taken away, and that is not okay.