It seemed, like the bombing at the Boston Marathon itself, a story made more for fiction. As a horrible week moved toward its end, one of Americas great cities was suddenly locked down as law enforcement was determined to capture the surviving suspect in the bombing that killed three people and wounded over 180, many severely, Monday.
And capture him they did. Dzhokar Tsarnaev was wounded and hiding in a boat in Watertown, a Boston-area community, when police closed in. The end was dramatic, but it was the end expected by experienced officers, brave people who did their jobs under incredible pressure. He is in the hospital beginning a long recovery and a march to whats certain to be inevitable justice. A naturalized citizen, a picture of the young (19) mans fall into extremism is emerging.
His older brother is dead, killed in the process of a confrontation with law enforcement during which his younger brother apparently backed over him in a vehicle. Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, from Chechnya in Russia, in the southeastern part of Europe in the Caucasus mountains, had been in the United States several years, and in fact Dzhokar Tsarnaev became a citizen in 2012.
As the one-week anniversary came and went, it was a time to reflect on what followed the senseless tragedy at the Boston Marathon. Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel were heroic. So were law officers and investigators. And so were marathon runners and spectators who expressed gratitude for their survival even as they contemplated recovery from their severe wounds.
A country united
The wake of what happened was in part at least a testament to the American spirit in this city that was one of the nations birthplaces.
The bravery of first responders called into the pursuit was not taken for granted. In one interview, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani noted the similarities in what he saw on Sept. 11, 2001 and on marathon Monday: the police an firefighters were the first in and last out.
A free countrys vulnerability and its strength were in full display. In a society that allows its citizens to move freely, to congregate in large numbers, to enjoy the absence of oppressive oversight by the state, there are hazards, or potential hazards that cannot be avoided. An individual can do harm to others if he is willing to put himself in harms way. It is always thus in countries where citizens are unwilling to surrender themselves to a police state.
But since Sept. 11, Americans have seen increased security and more self-awareness of the threats in large gatherings. And the investigation of what happened in Boston was sweeping, including citizens with cameras who were on scene helping officers, along with businesses who also had surveillance of some kind.
System will work
Unfortunately, as authorities proceeded to try to get information from young Tsarnaev, some politicians called for him to be treated as an enemy combatant, which would curb the civil liberties afforded American citizens, of which he is one. That feels like political grandstanding. If any suspect in any crime is going to undergo the investigation and questioning of a lifetime it is this young man. Let the justice system work as the law enforcement system has worked thus far.
Indeed, much is known about Tsarnaev, and the blanks are slowly being filled. It is instructive to know how a person said by some who knew him to be normal, a good kid, became willing to participate in mass maiming and killing, which he surely knew would be the outcome of what he and his brother are alleged to have done. Understanding this might prove useful in profiling other threats that may be looming in other places.
But what is it, a week and one day later, that we know for certain in the wake of this painful, deadly episode? We know what we knew all along, something of which we now have been forcefully reminded: America is strong and when it counts, America is unified, and America will, no matter what forces align against it, survive and carry on.